Bengaluru PHCs paralyzed over staff shortage

Bangalore City Health

The primary health centres in Bengaluru await long-standing upgrade in infrastructure and technology.

Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in different areas of the city struggle due to shortage of doctors, nurses, and health workers. Obsolete infrastructure, limited medical equipment and primitive technology add to the woes of the PHCs.

The State Government, in 2019, had announced (hyperlink please) a comprehensive revamp and an upgrade of PHCs of Bengaluru, making them technology-savvy. But itcontinues to be in the pipeline after more than two years.

Dr. Ashok from Urban PHC in Old Baiyyappanahalli said that there is an acute shortage of health workers in the PHCs. “Usually not more than one doctor or nurse is assigned for each PHC per ward. The health workers are of great assistance as they help to reduce the workload on the doctors and nurses.”

He explained that the health workers perform the field-work of swab collection, counselling and provide health education and information to the people. He added that in their absence the doctors and nurses have to perform both the chores of taking care of patients in the PHCs and going out on the field to perform other duties.

The 2018-19 Rural Health Statistics Report (Link) suggested that Karnataka required 9,758 female health workers out of which only 8,077 were in the position. The same report also showed that against the requirement of 9,758 male health workers, only 3,401 were in the position (Please check the numbers. Also a recent report is available for 2020-21). Dr. Ashok said that most of the health workers were laid off during and post pandemic. “We are currently outsourcing staff  to reduce workload on us,” he added.

Chand Prakash, staff nurse at a PHC, said that the shortage of manpower and supplies takes a toll on the demand also the patients, a lot of times. “Recently most of the doctors from the PHCs were assigned duties at Khelo India. They could have taken doctors from hospitals where they still have a backup.” Prakash mentioned that he was taking care of all the patients single-handedly all the while when Khelo India games were going on.

The Khelo India games were held over a period of 10 days from April 24 to May 3.

“Rather than assigning more than one doctor to aPHC, they assign multiple PHCs to one doctor. The doctors work three days a week in one PHC and travel to other assigned PHC for remaining days of the week,” Prakash said.

Dr. Ashok said that there are a number of PHCs where one doctor has to cater to a population of around one lakh people. “Doctors literally grind in so much pressure. More appointments should be made as soon as possible,” he said.

Dr. Ashok alsosaid that the only major upgrade with respect to technology was the e-sanjeevani application.

He said that most PHCs continue to function with limited resources. This also results in inadequate transportation facilities for the PHCs. “PHCs in the rural areas struggle a lot in terms of transportation. Most of the PHCs don’t have adequate means of transportation to refer patients to hospitals in the city.”

Sripriya, a patient, said that she gets most of her medicines from the PHC but some aren’t still available and for that she had to go to the city’s pharmacies. “It would be great if more doctors are appointed along with better transportation for the rural PHCs. That would definitely make healthcare more accessible for us.”

Dr. Ashok said that the doctors have been in talks with Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike (BBMP)officials to upgrade the facilities as well as increase the staff.They have also submitted a memorandum to the commissioner’s office and higher authorities. “They have promised to look into the matter but nothing has been done so far.”

Earlier, it was reported thatthe government had started spending Rs. 20 lakh per PHC per district for the upgrade under the Amruth scheme.However, Dr. Ashok confirmed that his PHC was getting an annual aid of Rs. two to three lakh only.

A BBMP official said that they are currently focusing only on Covid vaccination drives and everything else is secondary on the priority list.