Fewer doctors coming to Baglung after it was removed from remote districts listThe chances of getting a scholarship for MD are high if a doctor has served at hospitals in remote districts.
The government removed Baglung from the list of ‘remote districts’ last year, which in effect has created a vacuum in the health sector. Health institutions in the district are facing a shortage of human resources since there are no applicants for medical officers.
“MBBS doctors prefer going to remote districts because the chances of getting a scholarship for MD are high if one has served at hospitals in remote districts,” said Dr Shailendra Pokharel, the medical superintendent at the Dhaulagiri Hospital. “But since Baglung is no longer listed as a remote district, the perks of being posted here are not the same.”
Health services have been hugely affected at the 50-bed hospital, a major health institution under the Gandaki provincial government, in the absence of human resources.
The hospital, one of the Covid-19 specific hospitals in the district, has the posts of six medical officers and 12 specialist doctors. The hospital has asked for two more doctors given the pandemic.
The health institution currently has 10 specialist doctors but not a single medical officer.
The posts of anesthesiologist and radiologist, essential in surgery, are also vacant and the hospital’s laboratory is short-staffed. The hospital has appointed some health workers on a contract basis since the government failed to deploy human resources, according to Dr Shailendra Pokharel, the medical superintendent at the hospital.
According to Pokharel, applications for jobs at the hospital have trickled down to a minimum, especially for the post of medical officers, since last year because medical officers are not keen on being transferred to Baglung.
Dr Dhundiraj Paudel worked as a medical officer in Baglung last year. He demanded a scholarship quota from the government for his MD since he had been working in a remote district. But he was denied a scholarship since Baglung was no longer categorised as a remote district.
“Then I decided to move to Parbat, which is enlisted as a remote district. Working in Parbat will help me pursue my MD,” said Paudel, who is currently employed with Parbat District Hospital.
Of the 11 districts in Gandaki Province, Mustang, Manang, Parbat, Myagdi and Lamjung are enlisted as remote districts.
According to Pokharel, in the past, as many as 15 medical officers would be available at Dhaulagiri Hospital at any given time but now there are none.
The hospital has closed its Out Patient Department (OPD) to prevent the spread of coronavirus among patients. Paramedics have been mobilised to look after patients since the specialist doctors are stretched thin.
“I frequented the ministry time and again demanding human resources, but the problem has been left unaddressed,” said Pokharel. “Some medical officers who came to Baglung left for Parbat and Myagdi to score points for scholarships”.
The hospital has no alternative but to refer critically ill patients to Pokhara.
KB Rana Magar, chairman of the hospital management committee, informed that various health services like dialysis, Intensive Care Unit, isolation facility and Polymerase Chain Reaction lab are also affected by the shortage of human resources.
“We want to provide quality health services to the local people. But the government policy has made Baglung undesirable for new doctors. The authorities should create an environment for health workers to stay in the district and work,” said Magar.
According to him, the hospital has currently outsourced some health workers to collect swabs for PCR testing.
The hospital has three ICU beds and 25 isolation beds. Currently, 18 Covid-19 patients are receiving treatment at the hospital. “The ICU and isolation services are also affected due to the shortage of staff,” said Pokharel.
The ones affected the most by the staff shortage are the local residents.
Bahadur Pariyar of Amalachaur in Baglung Municipality-12 visited the hospital last week to seek treatment for kidney ailments, but there were no doctors to attend to him.
“Patients haven’t been getting quality health services at the hospital lately. I was able to get treated only after contacting the medical superintendent,” said Pariyar.
Madhu Maya Adhikari, the provincial Minister for Health and Population, said the provincial government is aware of the problems faced by government health institutions in Baglung and that the government is making efforts to manage required human resources.
“The provincial government has been working sincerely to address the human resource shortage in various health institutions in the province,” she said.