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Staff crunch, drugs shortage cripple govt hospitals

Staff crunch, drugs shortage cripple govt hospitals

The government is building two 100-bed Covid hospitals in Mohali and Bathinda, but 30% posts of specialists are yet to filled.



Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, May 7

The two biggest challenges being faced by the state in dealing with the surge in Covid cases are the shortage of staff at government health facilities and the trickle supply of controlled medicines.

350 posts of specialists lying vacant

The government is building two 100-bed Covid hospitals in Mohali and Bathinda, but 30% posts of specialists are yet to filled. Almost 350 posts of medical officers in the state health department are lying vacant.

While the state government is making all-out efforts to recruit medical and paramedical staff as it prepares to increase the bed capacity by 2,000 beds, it is still dependent on the Centre for the release of the “much-in-demand” biological therapy — Tocilizumab — for critically ill patients.

In the past one month, the state has received just 299 doses of this medicine from the Centre and distributed it to all Level-3 facilities. Tocilizumab is widely recommended by doctors for patients with high viral load that leads to cytokine storm in their bodies. As a result, relatives of these patients are running from pillar to post to get the medicine. Its alternatives, too, are not available, though these are not part of controlled supply.

“Today, 85,000 doses of Remdesivir have been allocated to us and district committees headed by Deputy Commissioners have been asked to monitor its smooth supply. We are trying to remove the bottlenecks in the supply of Tocilizumab and its alternatives,” said Principal Secretary, Health, Hussan Lal.

Almost 64 per cent of the Covid patients on oxygen support are currently seeking treatment in government health facilities (2,040 of total 3,193 are in government hospitals). The government is making efforts to quickly build two 100-bed Covid hospitals in Mohali and Bathinda, but over 30 per cent posts of specialists in the state health department are lying vacant, which raises questions of how these new facilities will be manned.

Dr Gagandeep Singh, president, PCMS Association, said almost 350 posts of medical officers in the state health department were lying vacant and it was affecting the services during the pandemic.

“Till recently, there was no medicine specialist in Kapurthala and Muktsar and doctors from other districts were deputed there. In Bathinda, which is witnessing a surge, two medicine specialists have resigned and only two are there to deal with the patient load. The posts of epidemiologists are vacant in five or six districts, besides anaesthetists and staff nurses,” he said.

Aware of this, the government is going ahead with a recruitment drive beginning Saturday, besides asking final-year medical and nursing students to help deal with the patients, besides seeking private volunteer doctors and paramedics on board.

“As many as 250 posts of specialist doctors are to be filled, for which walk-in interviews are to be held, beginning Saturday,” confirmed Hussan Lal.


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