COVID-19 in Bihar: Medical assistants in demand as doctors shut clinics

india bihar covid vaccine
Beneficiary receive the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, in Patna on Monday, May 10, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Patna: With beds in all Bihar hospitals occupied and around 60 per cent of doctors shutting their private clinics out of fear of contracting COVID-19, poor villagers in the state have been left at the mercy of rural medical practitioners.

Sanjay Kumar Mishra, a government official in Patna, thanked one of these practitioners for the life of his wife when no doctor picked up his calls for urgent medical help. “My wife had tested positive for COVID-19 and one day she suddenly had severe diarrhoea which worsened her condition. I called up several doctors but none answered the calls,” Mishra said.

“Eventually I contacted a local medical practitioner Karan Kumar who works as an assistant to a physician in Patna for help. He came to my residence and gave my wife an intravenous injection to administer saline. It was only then that my wife recovered,” he said.

Mishra is not alone. Most of the villagers are now dependent on rural practitioners for medical help, with expert doctors missing from the scene.

“Dozens of villagers are suffering from severe cough and fever but no doctors are available in our areas. But for the rural medical practitioners (who got training at the clinics of doctors), many villagers would have died by now. There is no-one to care for us except these men,” said Laxman Yadav, a village council official from Tarapur block in Munger district.

A resident from Bhojpur district Shashi Kant Tripathi says more than 90 per cent of the population in his area is currently consulting these practitioners for medical help. It was at the advice of these, Tripathi adds, that the villagers are taking medicines or going for home isolation. “The government health system is totally out of track now,” he alleged.

Dr Ajay Kumar, Bihar’s acting president of IMA, said some 60 per cent of private clinics in Patna are closed now. He gives two reasons for this. “In some cases, doctors, family members or their clinic staff have got infected while in another cases, doctors are apprehensive of getting infections,” he said.

Busy schedule

Rural practitioners say they have very busy schedules these days, as everyone wants help.

“I get no less than 40-50 calls every day but I can’t ignore them in a crisis. The problem with us is that we have grown among the villagers, have been closely associated with them for long and have developed a sort of family bonding,” said Kalindra Kumar, one such practitioner from Deo block town in Aurangabad district.

Navin Kumar Jha, another rural practitioner, is given special status by local villagers of Purnia district. Jha, who worked as a doctor’s assistant, is having a roaring practice these days. “I remain busy till late. People keep calling on my mobile phone and even rush to my residence for help,” Jha said.

The COVID-19 in its second wave has left a devastating impact on human lives in Bihar claiming 3,593 lives and infecting 630,185 people till May 13. Keeping in view the severity of the situation, the state government has enforced total lockdown in Bihar but this has brought down the rate of infection only partially.