Treatment of tea worker Maina Naik and state of Assam’s public health system

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Recently, singer Zubeen Garg fell in a bathroom and had an accident in Dibrugarh. His fans and the government of Assam were concerned about his health and well-being. He was first treated in Dibrugarh then for better treatment he was transferred to Guwahati by an air ambulance. We wish Zubeen a speedy recovery and good health.

Tea garden worker Maina Naik was seriously injured. She was also hospitalized first in Dibrugarh and then transferred to Guwahati by road. There is now a huge outcry on social media demanding equal concern for the treatment of Maina Naik from the Government of Assam. Will our society view famous people and strangers the same way? Will he not distinguish between the rich and the poor? If that happens, that’s wonderful. Unfortunately, we have not yet reached that state. However, this debate is welcome. It’s a welcome debate as a new president takes office. In this context, should we not be asking certain questions about our public health system?

The performance of a government is judged on certain things. These are health, education, job creation and social peace. Public health is important. How many tires are there in our public health system? There are four tires – primary health centers, block hospitals, district hospitals and medical colleges.

We very often hear about x hospital beds being inaugurated. The number of doctors, other staff and facilities required for these four tired health services is mandated by Indian public health standards. If this system works well for us, there won’t be a need for as many private hospitals in the state. But this is not the case. It does not work efficiently.

The proliferation of private hospitals everywhere proves that something is seriously wrong with our public healthcare system. So how is it that every two days new public hospitals are inaugurated. What are the most vital things for a hospital? – Doctors, nurses, paramedics, basic equipment and essential medicines?

Do we have any in our public health system? Sorry, we don’t. This is why primary health centers refer their patients to block hospitals and similarly block level hospitals refer them to district hospitals and then send them to medical colleges. But are patients getting the right kind of treatment in medical schools? No, they don’t. Our faculties of medicine are not prepared for this.

It was only recently that I went to GMCH for the treatment of a young man who had broken his hip bones. What is strange is that that day, the X-ray machine in the emergency department was not working. People said it happened very often and it was a normal thing. We had no choice but to transfer the patient to the nearest private hospital. It’s a classic case.

This is how most patients taken to public hospitals end up lending to private hospitals. After this repeated experience, people choose to go directly to private hospitals without going to public hospitals. This is why private hospitals have appeared everywhere. This is proof that our public health system is not working. You can’t call a hospital a massive building if it doesn’t have the basic facilities of a hospital. It is ironic that these days we see massive structures devoid of any purpose in this time of building-centric development.

Back to Zubeen Garg and Maina Naik. We have absolutely nothing against the use of an air ambulance for Zubeen Garg. It is not so bold to compare the talent of Zubeen Garg with that of Maina Naik. But when Maina Naik and her ilk need emergency treatment, who will organize an air ambulance for them? Not everyone can have the same talent, but shouldn’t everyone enjoy the right to live equally?

Here another question comes to mind. Who has long been responsible for the public health system in Assam? So isn’t the current Chief Minister of Assam responsible for the ills of our public health system?

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