Delhi: From lack of OT lights to staff crunch, why government hospitals keep you waiting

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NEW DELHI: There are 183 operation theatres in Delhi government-run hospitals: 31 of them (that is, 17%) are non-functional. The reasons, according to a status report submitted by the health department on chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s orders, range from lack of equipment to pending civil work. Shortage of staff — anaesthetists, OT assistants and technicians — is another major crisis.

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Sources said Kejriwal had sought a timeline from the departments concerned to get things moving and he was told it might take maximum six months to a year to do so. “The chief minister has expressed strong displeasure at the response,” said an official.

Some of requisitions for equipment, government data showed, were made way back in 2015. In November 2015, the Central Procurement Agency received a demand of 13 anaesthesia workstations from eight hospitals. Tender was floated a month later, in December, and orders placed in March 2018 with a timeline of 90 days for supply of the equipment as per terms and conditions. The CPA has said a timeline of June 30 had been given for installation of these machines in eight hospitals. The requisition for another lot of 54 anaesthesia workstations was made by various hospitals in September last year.

Tender was floated two months later, in December, and technical evaluation was completed recently. Sources said it might take another six to nine months for the equipment to be installed.

Doctors said non-functional OTs was a major cause of delay in surgeries at state-run hospitals. “What should we do? If the OT is not functional, we have no option but to put the patient on wait-list or refer them to a higher centre,” he added.

The magnitude of the problem can be guaged from the fact that GB Pant hospital, the largest super-speciality hospital run by state government, has 19 OTs, of which six are non-functional due to shortage of OT light, anaesthesia workstation and group C staff. As per timeline submitted by PWD, completion of civil work for two OTs at the hospital will take six months and another four OTs can be ready in a year. “OT light will be purchased through CPA by June 30 and the anaesthesia work station will be available by December 31,” GB Pant hospital’s medical superintendent has said in its replied to the health department. Similar replies have been submitted

TOI has a copy of the letter written to the state health minister and chief minister by principal secretary (health and family welfare) in April on the timeline to make OTs functional. “Some delay has occurred in purchase of equipment because, earlier, the procurement process was initiated at the level of medical superintendent. But, subsequently, it was decided to be done at CPA level,” the letter stated. On the vacant positions, it clarified that specialists in anaesthesia, orthopaedics and surgery were in short supply and, thus, vacant
“As for Group B and C posts — OT assistant, OT technician, and technical assistant and nursing officers among others — recruitment will be done by the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board. Requisition for the same has been sent,” it stated.
A doctor said: “So many patients are referred to AIIMS and Safdarjung daily for minor surgeries from state-run hospitals. Recently, the government came up with a scheme wherein patients could be referred to private facilities if the waiting time for surgery in the government hospital is over one month. But the real need is to equip the hospital and fill up vacant posts.”
TOI had reported in November how two operating tables in the surgery division of Lok Nayak hospital were non-functional. A senior surgeon said that the waiting time had gone up to a year for many procedures.

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