While most staff-starved district hospitals in Punjab don’t even have one anaesthetist, there are two at the ‘privileged’ Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) Hospital in Mohali. However, they have been involved in only one major surgery each in the past three months.In a ‘the more the merrier’ scenario, this 25-bed hospital – a much-sought-after place among ‘VIP doctors’ in the state – has 12 doctors against 11 sanctioned posts. This is a preferred posting among doctors due to the low workload and its proximity to Chandigarh.The 12th doctor is Dr Maninder Kaur, a gynaecologist who has been brought here on deputation from a dispensary in Ropar.

As per the monthly report put up in the office of the hospital incharge, just one delivery was performed here in the past three months. Almost every patient is referred to nearby hospitals, especially for deliveries.Dr Anil Joshi, a Senior Medical Officer who heads the hospital, claims that their main focus is on OPD (outpatient department) services. Ultrasound facilities are vital for the gynae OPD, but the only ultrasound machine at the hospital is lying unutilised in the absence of a radiodiagnosis expert. Dr Joshi is a dermatology expert, but as per the Indian Public Health Standards, a 25-bed hospital doesn’t need a dermatologist. Dr Amanpreet Kaur, a surgeon, has performed just two major surgeries in three months with a team of two anaesthetists.

When this reporter reached the hospital around 8.30 pm on May 10, complaining of ‘stomach ache’, a man was found sitting on the chair of the emergency medical officer. He turned out to be Radhe Shyam, a peon who ‘manages’ the emergency till the doctors arrive from home.Around five minutes later, a nurse walked in and enquired about the case. Radhe Shyam told her that he had also called ‘madam’ (doctor). However, she herself prescribed the medicine for stomach ache and asked this reporter to come to the OPD the next day. She walked out of the emergency room and started dialling a number from her mobile. She was soon telling ‘madam’ that she had handled the case, so there was no need for her to come. As per the emergency duty roster, one Dr Amanpreet Kaur was on emergency duty that night.Usually, the doctor concerned never responds to the distress call. It’s the staff nurse — who stays in the hospital quarters—who treats the patient or refers him/her to other hospitals.Other district hospitals preferred by VIP doctors are located in Bathinda, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Chandigarh and Mohali.

The Mohali Civil Hospital has as many as 45 doctors, while the district hospitals in neighbouring Fatehgarh Sahib and Ropar have 23 and around 20, respectively.When contacted, Dr HS Bali, Director, Health Services, Punjab, refused to comment on the matter, saying that he didn’t deal ‘directly’ with ESIC hospitals. All such hospitals in the state are managed by the ESIC, but the doctors are appointed by the state Health Department.Dr Gulshan Rai, Director, ESIC, Punjab, confirmed that the number of deliveries was low. “Most of the patients prefer the General Hospital or the Mohali Civil Hospital,” he said.When asked about the two anaesthetists, he said one of them was a Senior Medical Officer, posted for administrative work. However, as per the service rules, a doctor’s primary job to treat the patients.