It’s tough to beat the staff shortage at state-run St George Hospital. Around 100 young thalassemia patients are undergoing treatment at the state-run facility in Fort. But for the last three years, there hasn’t been a single paediatrician around the unit that is supposed to treat children and adolescents with the inherited blood disorder. All the work has been left to anurse and a ward boy, who attend to the patients on a daily basis.
When either of them is on a break, the patients can only pray for things not to go awry. While the hospital staff say a resident medical officer (RMO) visits the unit every morning around 11 to check on the young patients, blood transfusions are conducted by the lone nurse. The unit, which is open from 8 am to 4 pm every day, attends to around 100 patients registered with the hospital, and provides them with regular blood transfusions.
Nurse out of sight
The nurse, who we were told conducts the blood transfusions on her own, was nowhere in sight when we visited the unit. During that time, a young patient needed an adjustment during an ongoing blood transfusion, and the ward boy at the unit rushed to her aid.
He said, “We have over 90 patients in different age groups visiting the hospital at least twice a month, but there is no on-duty doctor apart from the RMOs that work in different shifts. One of them comes every morning to check up on the patients and leaves in a while. They usually aren’t specifically from the paediatrics department.”
As per an RTI query filed by a doctor, the last time the thalassemia unit had an on-duty paediatrician was in 2009. The reply stated that Dr Vinita Jain worked with the unit from 2003 and left in 2009, after which no other doctor was appointed to the position, which is still vacant, said the doctor.
Kin worried sick
Requesting anonymity, the mother of a 17-year-old thalassemia patient said, “My daughter has been undergoing transfusions here for the last five or so years. When the doctor was around, she received timely treatment, and was taken care of if she showed symptoms such as vomiting or dizziness. Now we have no option but to call the nurse or the ward boy for help. I’m constantly worried about delays that may take place if my daughter develops any complication during the transfusions.”
With the blood bank facing a dearth of the vital life fluid - after45 litres sitting in the facility’s storage got expired - relatives end up under a lot of strain trying to procure the right type well in time for the patients.
“My daughter is O-positive, which is a common blood group. But we still have to arrange for it from other banks. There is hardly any fresh blood left here at the bank and my daughter needs transfusions more regularly at her age,” the relative said.
Looking to hire
Dr Jagdish Bhavani, medical superintendent of the hospital, said, “The thalassemia unit does not have a paediatrician as of now but we are trying to fill the position. I am seeing to it that the patients receive proper treatment.”