THE closure of the dialysis unit in a dilapidated building of the Hospicio Hospital, Margao after a fire broke out has brought more suffering to the patients with failed kidneys who need dialysis on a regular basis. Though the unit was made partly operational with the help of a generator on Monday after last week’s fire, on Tuesday the government ordered its closure until the multi-departmental probe ordered by it into the fire incident is completed and report submitted to it. The closure was highly unfair to dialysis patients. The closure allegedly caused the death of one of the dialysis patients, and another is said to be battling for life. Though the government made alternate arrangements in private hospitals, many of the patients were reluctant to avail of their services for reasons of higher charges. Dr R Venkatesh, who has been running the Hospicio dialysis facility and providing service at a cheaper rate, ignored the government closure order and started providing the service, drawing power from one of the facilities in the hospital on Wednesday. The restarting of the facility has brought immense relief to the patients.
The reason cited for closing down the Hospicio dialysis facility is absurd. Given the fact that inquiries ordered by government take a long time to complete, it is unlikely that the report on the fire incident would come out any time soon. There are several cases in which inquiries were ordered for various lapses in the health sector, the reports of which have been indefinitely delayed. A classic case of delay in inquiry and submission of report is the organ retrieval case, which is yet to see the light of the day. The inquiry ordered by the government into the Hospicio fire incident might also meet the same fate and the restarting of the facility could be indefinitely delayed. The inquiry will be examining not only the cause of fire – which the fire department can determine – but also the angle of deliberate act of causing fire by anyone. Even after the inquiry is completed and the report submitted, the government would take a long time to redo the place, which is already in a dilapidated condition. As dialysis services are life saving facilities, the government should find alternative place for them. In any case, running the facilities in a dilapidated and dangerous building is a crime the government cannot absolve itself of.
The closure of the Hospicio dialysis facility looked ironical, coming form a government that prides itself on providing medical care and financial assistance to patients suffering from serious diseases. The government could have located the facility elsewhere and provided power connection and other help needed for restarting the facility in the South Goa district hospital. Sending patients to private dialysis centres, which are known to charge additional fees over and above the government-approved charges, amounted to forcing them to spend more. Why is the government reluctant to restart the facility in the South Goa district hospital? Is the move to stop dialysis in Hospicio an attempt to shut down the facility operated by Dr Venkatesh, who has had trouble with the bosses in the health department over non-payment of his dues? Is it to teach him a lesson? Or is it an attempt to transfer the business to private hospitals? If the answers to the questions are in the negative, the government ought to ensure that the patients in need of dialysis are provided the facilities within the Hospicio complex in the larger public interest.
Hundreds of kidney patients in the state are in need of regular dialysis, some of them having to undergo the procedure three times a week to survive. The number of kidney patients is more in South Goa, as a large number of cases of kidney failure and related ailments is reported from the Canacona taluka of the district. Dialysis facilities should be made available in all government-run hospitals, so that the patients are not left to the mercy of private players, who make a “killing” while providing life saving services to the patients. Often the health authorities find it difficult to get approvals for starting certain facilities as the approval for the proposal is delayed at the higher levels. Keeping in view the fact that getting approvals from various departments and authorities is a cumbersome process, the government ought to amend the archaic rules to see that permissions for essential services such as health are fast tracked. Health Minister Vishwajit Rane should take the lead in fast tracking the system to bring dialysis facilities closure to patients in different talukas.