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Pune: No doctors to operate on the hearts of 34 children

The kids were to receive treatment under the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram, but as the services of its 124 city doctors were terminated for participating in a strike, the surgeries won’t take place

Thirty four children are awaiting heart surgery from July as the services of doctors from the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) were terminated for participating in a strike by the Maharashtra State Association of Gazetted Medical Officers (MAGMO). The services of around 124 doctors serving at the RBSK were terminated in Pune. As a result, parents of the children have had to approach private hospitals for treatment. But most of them cannot afford it.

Dr Dinesh Gharge
Dr Dinesh Gharge, city president of the RBSK, said around 7 lakh municipal school students are also awaiting medical check-ups since the doctors’ services were terminated

“We were given an operation date of July 28 at Sassoon Hospital but that day we were told that it couldn’t take place. Later we went to Sahyadri Hospital and Ruby Hall Clinic, but the fees were unaffordable,” said Sitabai Yelwande, grandmother of Samiksha, who has a hole in her heart. Her parents are daily wage workers from Khed district.

There is also Vaibhav Rathod, who is two years old and requires heart surgery for the same reason. “We were told to get the surgery done when he will be two years old. After consulting the local doctor at Khed we approached Sahyadri Hospital but they asked us to deposit a large amount of money and shift him to Mumbai, which we can’t afford,” said Savita Rathod, his mother. “But now we plan to save as much money as we can and do the operation in Mumbai,” she said.

Under RBSK, these surgeries will be performed free or at nominal cost as per various schemes. Under the RBSK, children from schools are also supposed to undergo medical check-ups. “We are supposed to conduct check-ups of around 20 lakh students in Pune municipal schools from July to September, but around 7 lakh students are still awaiting the check-ups since July 8, when the doctors’ services were terminated,” said Dr Dinesh Gharge, city president of the RBSK.

The check-ups may have helped get proper diagnosis for any sick children and they could have received treatment.
“The doctors have been terminated from July 8 this year but the Bombay High Court had passed a verdict allowing us to restart work on August 8. But there was a stay on it after the state government sought more time to consider the decision. We are facing the problem for last three months. Ultimately it’s the children and their parents who will face the inconvenience. They are forced to go to private hospitals, which they cannot afford,” Gharge added.

The strike
The MAGMO was on strike from July 1 this year. They demanded that an 11-month contract with doctors from MAGMO should be converted to a permanent job. The services of RBSK doctors were terminated on July 8.

The Bombay High Court passed a verdict allowing the doctors to restart work on August 8.

RBSK filed a contempt of court case against the state government as doctors were not asked to join even after the HC asked the state to end the termination. The case is now at the Supreme Court and the final hearing will be on October 7.

What is RBSK?

Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) is an initiative aimed at screening over 27 crore children from 0 to 18 years for defects at birth, diseases, deficiencies and development delays including disabilities. Children diagnosed with illnesses will be followed up with surgeries at tertiary level, free of cost under the National Rural Health Mission.

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