KASARAGOD: Kasaragod's health care sector is making progress that was never seen before because of the special attention given by the LDF government, said health minister KK Shailaja.
After inaugurating a dialysis center at the Mangalpady Taluk Hospital on Tuesday, she said Kasaragod's health sector was not strong when the LDF took the reins of the government in May 2016. Since then, the government gave special attention to the district. She made a series of claims on how the government brought in unprecedented changes to the health care sector of Kasaragod. TNIE decided to fact-check her claims.
Minister: After the LDF came to power, the number of doctors in the District Hospital and the General Hospital has doubled. You can go through the figures.
Reality: The District Hospital had 34 doctors in May 2016, when the LDF government came to power. On September 23, 2017, eight more posts were created, taking the total number of doctors to 42. In General Hospital, the LDF government created 12 new posts, taking the total number of doctors to 49. Therefore, the doctor's strength has not been doubled or increased by 100% as claimed by the minister but saw an increase of 23% in the District and 32% in the General Hospital. Of the 49 posts in the General Hospital, six are vacant, and five are filled with ad hoc doctors. In its surgery department, there is only one doctor though there are three posts. Departments such as Radiology, Respiratory Medicine, Forensic Surgery and Dermatology have only one post each. Health officials said major hospitals should have nine doctors -- three sets of three doctors each -- in each of the major departments to function round the clock. The District Hospital has only three doctors each in General Medicine, General Surgery, Gynaecology, and Paediatrics. Because of the inadequate number of doctors, both the top hospitals of the district do not attend to trauma care patients.
Minister: Reported vacancies were filled and new posts created where necessary.
Reality: New posts were created but neither are they adequate nor are all the created posts filled. Community health centers are upgraded to taluk hospitals only on paper, with barely any adequate appointments being made. No surgery or a minor procedure is done in any of the five taluk hospitals in the district. They do not admit any childbirth cases either. The taluk hospital in Trikaripur does not even have a casualty medical officer or a gynecologist.
Minister: Attempts are being made to develop the Kasaragod Medical College to provide Super Specialty service to people
Reality: The foundation stone for the medical college was laid in November 2013 at Ukkinadka in Badiadka. In the seventh year, it is still a work in progress. In April, the Academic Block was converted to a COVID Hospital but it does not have an ICU or adequate doctors and critical patients are referred to Kannur Government Medical College in Pariyaram. The construction work of the Hospital Block of Kasaragod Medical College was restarted only last week.
Minister: As the primary step, 293 posts were created for the Kasaragod Medical College and the appointments to the posts have started. It will be completed soon. Usually, only a few posts are created and the number is gradually being increased. Kasaragod was given special consideration. The medical college has to complete many processes before the central authority gives its permission.
Reality: The government created 293 posts with the rider that only half of them should be filled now as the medical college is not yet ready. Recently, 22 of the 24 senior residents (specialist doctors) appointed to the 200-bed COVID Hospital there were allowed to work from Kozhikode. The hospital has only one general medicine physician and very few clinical doctors.
Minister: Rs 2,000 crore is being invested in the health care sector via Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) in the state. The Master plan of the medical college is before KIIFB.
Reality: The investments are in developing the infrastructure. Kasaragod is facing a serious shortage of human resources.
Minister: When the government decided to upgrade community health centers (CHC) to taluk hospitals, the priority was given to Mangalpady. Earlier, this hospital did not even have the standard of a CHC. Now it is being gradually developed as a taluk hospital. Forty-two posts, including nine doctors, were created in Mangalpady. Normally, so many posts are not given to an upgraded hospital. The lab is being modernized. We are intending a holistic development of the taluk hospital.
Reality: When the CHC was upgraded to a taluk hospital two years ago, the government created five new posts of doctors and one post of the superintendent. Now, the hospital has eight doctors. Of the eight doctors, at least three are ad hoc postings. There is no change in the remaining 36 posts which existed when it was a CHC. They are eight staff nurses, three nursing assistants, five cleaning staff, one pharmacist, two lab technicians, and two office staff. Though there are two posts of lab technicians, only one is a regular appointee. The Hospital Management Committee (HMC) appointed two lab technicians and the National Health Mission provided two, taking the total number of lab technicians to five. Similarly, three more pharmacists were appointed on an ad hoc basis to cater to the rush of patients. The office has only two staff when the need is seven staff. The minister's 42 posts included 12 field posts such as five junior health inspectors, five public health nurses, one health inspector and one driver. These posts also existed when the hospital was a CHC. As a taluk hospital, it does not offer any speciality care. The hospital does not have a labour room or an operation theatre. On September 8, the government appointed three doctors -- two junior consultants and one casualty medical officer -- to the hospital. Two days later, the government rescinded the order and reappointed them in other districts.