Maharashtra Crisis – Doctors forced to put off Surgeries – The people of Latur can only be saved by God and the Government.”
The severe drought in Maharashtra has led to farmers killing themselves in Marathwada , the whole rural economy to a collapse and now is leading to a public health crisis that threatens the heath of over 5 lakh people in Latur one of the worst drought affected districts in the Maharashtra.
Faced with an acute shortage of water as the Manjra dam and Dhanegaon river that used to supply water to the district has gone dry. Doctors and clinics in Marathwada are finding it hard to treat patients with just tanker water. The situation is so bad that every of the 160 odd clinic or hospital in Latur has drastically cut down on planned surgeries and is only taking on emergency surgeries.
“We can’t help it the situation is such that everyone is dependent on tanker water which is also now in short supply. If we order a tanker today it comes after two to three days that too after relentless pursuing. The tankers are finding it hard to supply water because they get water from borewells from far flung areas whose own water tables are going down.”said Deepak Gugale President of the Latur, Indian Medical Association President.
Gugale adds, “The water table has gone down and in 15 days we will not be able to treat the emergency cases too, we will be only able to run our Out Patient Departments (OPD’s). Then the people of Latur can only be saved by God and the Government.”
Gugale’s dire plea for help is not far off the mark. Every doctor that we spoke too in Latur said that they are finding it difficult to treat patients without water supply. ” We had dug three borewells one of which was dug 700 feet within our hospital that used to give us half an hour of water each day. All of the borewells ran dry in January this year. To conduct a surgery we don’t have the right amount of water to wash our hands.”said Dr Sanjay Warad who runs a Maternity and Surgical hospital in Latur.
The water crisis has led to a situation where hospitals are forced to compromise on hygiene. For instance hospitals are cleaned daily now just ‘dry mop’ it twice a day. Wash Basins in all the hospitals have been shut and patients and their relatives who look after them have been given just one 30 litre bucket of water daily for a bath and all their other needs.
Hospitals have tried different ways to tide over the shortage of water, as there is no water for washing bedsheets and other linen, disposable ones are being purchased. For every surgery a surgeon and his assistants are required to wash their hands with soap for 10 minutes in running water, in stead of that doctors take just a minute or two to wash their hands and then use betadine and other disinfectants to clean their hands before a surgery. Another doctor on condition of anonymity said that after washing off his hands before a surgery, he collects the waste water and then uses it to clean bedsheets. “I use the Autoclave method (passing it through high pressured steam) but still I know that this should not be done, but I have no other option.”said the Doctor.
While other doctors are simply treating emergency patients and have cut down on planned surgeries, there are those like Dr Snehal Deshmukh who can’t fall back on this option. Deshmukh is a gyneacologist who runs a Maternity hospital in Latur. “We cant postpone deliveries, and maternity early. A caesarian delivery that we used to keep in our hospital for 5 to 7 days is being discharged on the fourth day, off course if she is medically fit to be discharged.”said Dr Deshmukh.
Latur has a government hospital that too, which is facing an even worse crisis is facing a huge crisis with flooded patients and again no water. Deshmukh says that the government hospital was simply not able to cope with the load and that she has treated patients from the government hospital who had developed complications after being treated there.
Urologist Dr Hansraj Baheti said that the quality of Tanker water being supplied by the private tanker supplier is of such a bad quality that he is seeing an increasing number of people falling prey to diseases like jaundice, Typhoid, Hepatitis and Gastroentitis. “The number of people suffering from Kidney stones alone has increased three fold, this is because they are drinking borewell water which is hard water.”said Baheti.
Gugale and Baheti said that they feared an epidemic might not be too far away and wanted the government to provide potable water to hospitals.