Health Services and Politicians

Yesterday I attended function held to inaugurate a new Hospital in Jalpaiguri, the district town of the eponymous district, about 40 kilometres from Siliguri. The road is execrable, many parts resembling ploughed fields rather than the State Highway it is supposed to be. And the government wants investment in North Bengal! Anyway let’s not chase that rabbit but come back to what I was saying.
The function started about 40 minutes late, inevitably as the organizers had invited the local MP and one nondescript minister of the West Bengal Government. There were the inevitable speeches; I noticed with some amusement that a Ramakrishna Mission monk who inaugurated the function could talk effortlessly for ten minutes saying nothing in particular as well as any politician!
The local MP stood up to speak. She informed us, without batting an eyelid that the Government run health service is the best in West Bengal among all the states of India. Apparently 73% people avail the services and “most of them get well”. Can you imagine that a responsible person, involved in policy making in the Indian Parliament could feel that all is well in the Government run health system.
I have a lot of experience about the system in Kolkata, after all I worked with them for a long time. But after coming to North Bengal I have realized that the Kolkata hospitals were havens of good treatment compared to the hell holes of North Bengal. There is a Medical College which does not offer any ICU facilities. The faculty commutes from Kolkata, staying an average of 15 days a month in Siliguri. That too we are talking about the hardworking types.( There are others who come for a day every other week). The huge complex with a budget that should be able to cater to all the health needs of several North Bengal districts if marshaled efficiently only does about 10 % of the work it should do. The state of affairs in the other hospitals is also the same. There are daily disputes and fights are common among the customers and the healthcare providers.
And the MP feels all is well!
Now you know why the health care system is so bad. The first priority to improve something is to recognize that there is a problem. If you feel all is well there can be no need for any improvement.
Long live the Political leadership. And long live the people of West Bengal. You only get the leaders you deserve.

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