As we walk into a rural health clinic at Khawaspur, just 20 kilometres from the district headquarters of Bhojpur in Bihar, a doctor is seen sitting helplessly. With a stethoscope and a few paracetamol and vitamin C tablets, he cannot do much for Covid patients frequently walking in.
The lanes in the neighbourhood are deserted. The adjoining villages look haunted. The locals are terror-struck with the destructive pandemic on the prowl. The first wave had largely spared rural India. The second one has not. And the health infrastructure in the countryside is largely proving to be inadequate. As CNN-News18 reviewed the situation on the ground, what surfaced was a real eye-opener.
Locals say at the core of the problem is doctors not showing up at the clinics, thus leaving them at the mercy of quacks.
“There are only jholachhap doctors (quacks) around. If we go to them, only God can save us," is a common refrain. “The village doctors just refer us to city hospitals."
Even the doctors concur. “People come here with symptoms. 90 per cent of them recover with basic medicines. The serious patients are referred to district hospitals,” said the doctor on duty. His colleague had more to say. “People come here with cough and cold…they then go to Uttar Pradesh for further treatment."
Patients walking in here get free paracetamol and vitamin C supplements. For all other medicines, they have to go to private medical stores. And if a patient is in critical condition, all they get here is saline treatment. For anything more, they have to rush to the district hospital.
The situation in Bihar is grim. It was underscored a couple of days ago when 48 bodies of suspected Covid patients washed up on the banks of the Ganga in Buxar.
With thousands of new Covid-19 cases emerging each day, the district hospitals too are choked. The infrastructure is crumbling, like in most other parts of the country. People are forced to sleep on the floors, many nurses refuse to touch Covid patients, leaving relatives to fend for them.
Bihar reported 10,920 fresh coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period on Tuesday as well as 72 deaths.