Brand new health centre ill-equipped, short-staffed

The centre lacks even basic life-saving equipment. The two medical officers and a pharmacist working there leave the facility – supposed to function round the clock – before it turns 5pm.

Nivedha Selvam | TNN
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Coimbatore: When an additional primary health centre was inaugurated at Anaikatti – a small village nestled in the foothills of the Western Ghats and Kerala – on Friday, residents of tribal settlements heaved a sigh of relief and thanked the government for meeting a long-pending demand. But it took just hours for reality to sink in.

The centre lacks even basic life-saving equipment. The two medical officers and a pharmacist working there leave the facility – supposed to function round the clock – before it turns 5pm.

As the old primary health centre (PHC) in the village was ill-equipped to meet their needs, the 4,800 residents of Anaikatti – more than 95% of whom are tribals – had to depend on the Kottathara Tribal Specialty Hospital run by the Kerala government across the border.

The residents used to visit the old PHC only to treat fever or headache, said P Rajendran, a local resident. “It has only a doctor and an attendant. Patients were usually referred to the PHC at 24 Veerapandi panchayat, which is 12km away. Doctors there could give first-aid, before sending the diseased to the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital (CMCH), 35km away,” he told TOI.

The 108 ambulance service, which was launched in the locality a decade ago, functioned only for a couple of months. As a result, the villagers were forced to hire private ambulances or autos or cars to reach CMCH.

The Tamil Nadu government had allotted Rs 50lakh to construct the 257.65sqm additional health centre equipped with labs, dispensaries and wards including an emergency ward, health department sources said. The facility has a 110sqm labour ward with five beds and a nurses’ quarters.

But as it turns out that even the new centre lacks the necessary equipment to treat patients, Anaikatti residents again have to approach the hospital in Kerala or travel to CMCH, said GPN Joshva, a social worker. “The purpose of establishing a hospital has gone to waste,” he said.

PG Bhanumathi, deputy director of health services, who had inaugurated the facility, said that necessary equipment are being procured and they will be installed within a week. “The sanctioned strength of the centre is two medical officers and three staff nurses. At present, a staff nurse is posted on deputation. All posts will be filled within a month,” she said.

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