Probably for the first time, a Right to Information (RTI) activist has used the Section 2(j) of the RTI Act to conduct a physical inspection of a public premise. The premises in question was that of the 100-bed Pandit Bhimsen Joshi (Temba) Hospital, a new facility run by the Mira Bhaindar Municipal Corp (MBMC). The Corporation was reluctant to even start this Hospital citing lack of funding. Finally, the Hospital was started in January 2016, following an order from the Bombay High Court, which was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL). The findings from the Hospital inspection conducted by student-activist Krishna Gupta under the RTI Act, were startling.
This hospital with top end equipments has a beautifully appointed special floor for malnourished children with cartoons on the walls and toys of the children. Even then, there were only seven patients in a facility that can accommodate 20 patients. The only exception to this scarcity of patients is the Maternity Ward (which has 20 beds). While the city and country is starved of good medical facilities, why are patients staying away from this hospital?
Main reason is the Municipal Corp does not have money to run this Hospital. After running the Hospital for over a year, the Mira Bhaindar Municipal Corp is now handing it over to the State Government as per the memorandum of understating (MoU) signed between them.
Krishna also discovers it is because of a lack of doctors and trained medical staff — so acute is the shortage that the Hospital has not even found time to unpack all the equipment purchased. Consequently, patients are usually directed to other government hospitals.
The good news of this story is the transparency with which the hospital provided access to information and inspection. Krishna Gupta, a student RTI activists and resident of Bhaindar filed an application under Section 6(1) of the RTI Act with the Health Department of MBMC requesting information about the list of medical equipment, machineries and the expenditure budget for the same in the hospital as the whole. He was duly provided the information he sought.
Armed with this information, he filed another application under Section 2(j) of the RTI Act, seeking physical inspection of medical equipments, machineries and its working condition in the Hospital. This too was acceded to and a date and time for the inspection was fixed. Accordingly, he arrived at the premises on 31 October 2017 at 2 pm and met the Medical authority, who was a nursing superintendent. Mr Gupta was accompanied by a friend, Pradeep Jangam of Ziddi Maratha Pratishthan.
Consider this, Mira-Bhaindar has only one major hospital and a few OPD clinics, which are usually teeming with patients. Moreover, from Palghar to Mira Bhaindar, there is no government hospital with a trauma center and emergency medical facilities. The Pt Bhimsen Joshi Hospital had all these facilities but there are not functioning because Krishna was told there is no Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facility.
He noticed that only two of the many beds in the casualty ward had patients while the rest were empty.
During the physical inspection, Krishna observed that
1. Most of the medical equipment and machineries were lying unpacked at the hospital as is clear from the video.
2. To his dismay, he found that many of the machines that were actually in use were only working partially.
3. The biggest problem was that the hospital had only a couple of doctors available in the casualty ward manning the entire hospital. Mr Gupta has filed a further application asking for details of how many doctors, nurses and compounders have been officially appointed at hospital and how many, if any, have been appointed on a part-time or honorary basis.
4. Few machines bought for this Hospital were found to be transferred to other local clinics and hospitals run by the Municipal Corporation. There was no written record stating circumstances under which these machines were shifted to other hospitals. Krishna was told to come and inspect these machines later.
5. He also inspected the Complaint Book register and Complaint Box. He found that from January 2017 till 31 October 2017, only five to six complaints were recorded in the Register. Citizens may not have been using this grievance redressal mechanism due to lack of knowledge, Krishna says.
With the state government now taking over the Pt Bhimsen Joshi Hospital (Temba Hospital), it ought to be meeting a crying need for inexpensive government hospitals, and may finally achieve its true potential. At the moment, this shocking waste of facilities and equipment ought to be a matter of concern to all Indians.