Three years ago, the government decided to upgrade the taluk hospital at Neyyattinkara and hand over its administrative control to the district panchayat. On the ground, however, the decision has not brought about any major change in patient care.

Doctor and staff shortage still plague the hospital, rendering 24-hour service difficult.

The 450-bed hospital, which handles nearly 1,500 people in the outpatient units a day, has 40 doctors, including specialists and surgeons, and 124 nurses, a senior doctor with the hospital said.

Venkat, a resident of Balaramapuram, who visited the hospital seeking treatment for his mother, said the main problem faced by patients was the inadequate number of doctors and nurses. The situation was worse at night. Many pregnant women avoided the hospital in the evening hours as doctors were absent, he said.

“The current staff strength is highly inadequate, particularly to fight any outbreak of contagious diseases, as witnessed in the past three months,” a doctor with the hospital said. The hospital had all specialty units except psychiatry and physical medicine, but each unit was provided only a doctor or two, making it difficult for the authorities to put them on round-the-clock duty, he said.

“In the absence of accommodation for doctors, a majority of them live in the city, and in case of any emergency making them available becomes a difficult task,” a district panchayat official said.

A trauma unit was set up in the hospital four years ago with Central assistance of Rs.2 crore, but it is yet to become operational. “Though we want to provide 24-hour service, it is just not possible because of inadequate manpower,” hospital superintendent K.S. Shinu said.

The trauma unit would become functional by September, he said. However, with the present strength of two orthopaedic surgeons, two general surgeons, and two anaesthetists in the hospital, making the trauma unit functional would be an uphill task, he said.

Panchayat secretary Chandrasekhar said only more posts could address the situation.

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