Can’t afford to fall ill in Dwarka

Jaya Shroff Bhalla, Hindustan Times

Just last week, Sector 19 resident Biplabh Kumar (name changed on request), paid Rs 1,600 for a few stitches to his son’s knee at a private hospital in Dwarka.
Normally, the sutures would not have cost more than Rs 100. But Dwarka — Delhi’s pride and Asia’s largest sub-city — is a place where even general physicians charge Rs 300 per consultation.
All thanks to the complete absence of government healthcare facilities.

Making hay
Dr D Arora, a private practitioner who runs a clinic from the Sector 6 DDA flats, used to charge Rs 150 for a first consultation and nothing for subsequent visits, till two years ago.
Later, he raised his fee to Rs 200 and, now, he charges Rs 300 per visit. Yet, the number of patients visiting his clinic has only gone up.
And there are at least 30 such clinics that have mushroomed in Dwarka’s sectors 6 and 7.
So, why is healthcare prohibitively expensive in Dwarka? Simply because, even 10 years after it was developed, Dwarka does not have government healthcare facilities.

Only on paper
Dwarka’s first government hospital — a multi-specialty 750-bed unit named Bharat Ratna Indira Gandhi Hospital — should be ready by next November. At least, that was the promise made when Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit announced the project in November 2007.
The foundation stone of the Rs 350-crore project was not laid till a full year after the CM’s announcement. And since then, not a brick has been laid at the 15-acre site.

Primary cause
Things are no better on the primary healthcare front.
Till just two months ago, there was no Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) dispensary in Dwarka, although 70 per cent of the sub-city’s population comprises retired government servants. On May 25, a dispensary was inaugurated in Mahavir Enclave, near sectors 1, 2, 6 and 7, but most residents remain in the dark about it.

Before that, all that the sub-city had in the name of government health services was four dispensaries that opened 10am-1.30pm. “Officially, they are supposed to open 9am-2pm, but the staff stops registering patients after 12pm,” said MK Gupta, a senior citizen who resides in Dwarka’s Sector 10.

Privates profit
Absence of government healthcare facilities has perpetuated the windfall for private hospitals in the sub-city.
Ayushman (50 beds) and Bensups (150 beds) are the only multi-specialty private hospitals in the area.
“Since the other nearby hospital — Mata Chanan Devi in Janakpuri — is at least 8km away, these two can dictate terms. Their charges are especially steep in emergencies,” said Sector 18 resident Kamakhya Gupta (55), a homemaker.
Hospital owners, however, dispute this. Satpinder Singh, administrator at Ayushman Hospital, said, “We have been here for five years now. People repose their faith in us and that is why we are successful. On any given day, our occupancy level is more than 80 per cent.”

Seniors suffer most
Retired government servants surviving on pension make up almost half of Dwarka’s five-lakh population. So, the lack of Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) facilities in the vicinity affects them the most.
The closest CGHS-empanelled hospitals are Mata Chanan Devi and Deen Dayal Hospital, 6-16 kilometres away respectively, depending upon where you stay in Dwarka.

“For my daily medicines, I still go to the CGHS dispensary in Munirka, which is about 12km away. I have to make two trips every month: one to collect the medicines that are in stock, and the second to collect medicines that have to be indented and are not easily available. But do I have a choice?” said Sector 6 resident Hari D Goyal, senior citizen and CGHS beneficiary, who retired from Indian Economic Service 14 years ago.
Although it is meant to benefit him, Goyal had not heard about the new CGHS dispensary in Mahavir Enclave.

Kiran Walia, Health Minister spoke to Jaya Shroff Bhalla

When was the plan for the 750-bed Dwarka Hospital sanctioned?
About one-and-a-half years ago.

How much money has been allocated for the hospital project?
Rs 350 crore. It is a mega project.

When is the project expected to start?
Very soon. In fact, I will be meeting DDA officials as soon as the Assembly sessions get over, to finalise the details of the project.

What has held up the project, especially since all sanctions were made one-and-a-half years ago?
Recently, it was decided to make the Dwarka hospital quakeproof. The plan had to be revised accordingly. We should be getting DDA’s approval in a month.

It is more than 10 years since Dwarka came into being. Do you think it is fair that the residents, most of whom are retired officials, have to shell out so much money on private healthcare because of the government’s delay?
I understand they are anxious. We will work out something soon.

By when can Dwarka residents expect to see a hospital?
We expect DDA’s approvals in a month, and we should start work almost immediately.

Locals share their experiences with HT

‘Even a 100-bed hospital would help, to start with’
Sector 10 resident MK Gupta, 56, took voluntary retirement from the Delhi government. For the last three years, he has been taking his wife Kamala, 59, who is a CGHS beneficiary, to Mata Chanan Devi Hospital in Janakpuri, about 8km away.
His wife, who has severe osteoporosis in her toes, has trouble in walking, as her toes swell up every winter.

“She needs to undergo rigorous physiotherapy every year for about 20-25 days, especially when it is very cold. Absence of a local health facility makes life very difficult for us. The private hospitals charge Rs 1100 per session, which is too much for a retired official. Moreover, these hospital are not CGHS-empanelled, hence we pay from our own pocket,” said Gupta.

“If not a full-fledged 750-bed hospital, the government should have a 100-bed facility for emergency situations, to start off with.”

‘The hospital was clueless about my wife’s problem’

Hardev Goyal, 78, lost his soulmate to Dwarka’s shoddy healthcare infrastructure three-and-a-half years ago.
The Sector 6 resident, who retired from Indian Economic Service 14 years ago, is still haunted by memories of his wife’s last days.
“I got my wife’s check-up done when she complained of discomfort on December 10. For consultation, we took her to a private hospital with all her reports. We were told she was fine. The same evening, at 7 pm, we had to rush her to the hospital when she experienced difficulty in breathing. They kept my wife in the ICU. At 5 am, they pronounced her dead.”

“First, I was told it was cardiac failure. Then, they said, she died of water accumulation in her lungs. They did not give me a convincing reason. What could they say, they did not know the reason themselves.”

‘Who will take me to hospital in an emergency?’

Sadhu Singh, 82, retired from central government service around 22 years ago.
The Sector 6 resident now lives with his son, who travels on business frequently.
“I am old and may need to be rushed to the emergency at any time. Often, I am alone at home, with my son away at work,” said Singh.
“How much can the neighbours do, really? I can’t expect anyone to rush me to Janakpuri or anywhere else, in the absence of a CGHS facility in Dwarka. And private hospitals are so expensive.”
Singh lives in constant fear of being left at the mercy of private practitioners in the absence of a government healthcare facility in Dwarka.
“I think, it is time the government woke up to the basic needs of its citizens — people like us who have dedicated all their lives to the government,” he said.