More than 20 years ago, Shakuntala (name changed) was born at the Government Taluk Hospital in Avadi. But a few months ago when she went there, in labour, and asked to be admitted, she was turned away.

“Shakuntala had received ante-natal care at the hospital but when she went there for her delivery, hospital officials asked her family to go to the government hospital in Tiruvallur. The Avadi taluk hospital usually refers complicated labour cases and cases requiring caesarean sections to tertiary care hospitals, but Shakuntala had a normal delivery at the Tiruvallur GH,” said her relative S. Rajendran of Pattabiram.

This is just one of the many complaints against the hospital. Despite getting a new building in 2010, the hospital is plagued with problems – primarily a shortage of doctors and staff nurses. It also does not have trauma and emergency care wards or even a full-fledged maternity care unit.

Sources at the health department said the hospital receives at least 700 outpatients every day. “There are three doctors at the hospital and they cater mainly to outpatients. Very few patients are admitted – and only those with non-complicated problems. There are no gynaecologists or obstetricians at the hospital,” a source said. Also, there is no X-ray technician and the scan facility is used only to screen ante-natal mothers, he said.

The hospital is not equipped to handle trauma cases, and refers patients injured in road traffic accidents to tertiary care hospitals, usually either the government hospital in Tiruvallur or Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (GH), after giving them first aid, said T. Sadagopan, a resident of Pattabiram and a consumer activist.

“GH is at least 25 km from Avadi. The taluk hospital is the only government health facility in the western suburbs and covers at least 100 villages but it lacks emergency care. There are no staff members to issue patient slips and nurses and paramedical staff have to manage as best they can,” he said.

On an average, the 108 ambulance transports at least 100 cases a month from the Avadi hospital to GH, Government Kilpauk Hospital and Tiruvallur GH.

The absence of an obstetrician and gynaecologist has caused immense hardship to pregnant women. A source said the hospital handles only normal deliveries and refers pregnant women who need C-sections to Government Hospital for Women and Children, Egmore. A 108 ambulance takes them there.

Also, doctors from the Avadi taluk hospital are deputed to the Tiruttani GH once a week, as there too, there is a staff shortage.

A health department official said there was an urgent need to post more doctors and nurses at the Avadi hospital. “At least two more doctors need to be posted. Doctors are also needed for night duty and an obstetrician and gynaecologist should also be posted,” he said.

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