Recently singer Zubeen Garg fell in a bathroom and met with an accident in Dibrugarh. His fans and the Assam government were concerned about his health and well-being. First, he was treated in Dibrugarh and then for better treatment he was shifted to Guwahati by an air ambulance. We wish Zubeen a speedy recovery and good health.

Tea garden worker Maina Naik was seriously injured. She was also hospitalised first in Dibrugarh then shifted to Guwahati by road. Now there is a huge uproar on social media demanding equal concern for the treatment of Maina Naik from the Assam government. Will our society see the celebrated personalities and the unknown people equally? Will it not differentiate between the rich and poor? If it happens that is wonderful. Unfortunately, we are yet to reach that state. Still, this debate is welcome. This is a welcome debate while a new president is taking office. In this context shouldn’t we ask certain questions about our public health system?

The performance of a government is judged on certain things. These are health, education, employment generation and social peace. Public health is an important thing. How many tires are there in our public health system? There are four tires- primary health centres, block hospitals, district hospitals and medical colleges.

We very often hear about x number bedded of hospitals being inaugurated. The number of doctors, other staff and facilities required for these four tired health services are mandated by Indian Public Health Standards. If this system works properly for us there will be no need for so many private hospitals in the state. But that is not the case. It is not working efficiently.

The mushrooming of private hospitals everywhere proves that something is seriously wrong with our public health system. Then how come every other day new public hospitals are being inaugurated. What are the most vital things for a hospital?–Doctors, nurses, paramedics, basic equipment and essential drugs?

Do we have them in our public health system? Sorry, we don’t. That is why the primary health centres send their patients to block hospitals and in a similar way block level hospitals refer them to district hospitals and they then send them to the medical colleges. But do the patients get the right kind of treatment in the medical colleges? No, they don’t. Our medical colleges are not geared up for this.

Only recently I went to the GMCH for the treatment of a young man who broke his hip bones. The strange thing is that day the X-ray machine in the emergency ward was not working. People said it happened very often and it was a normal thing. We had no other option but to shift the patient to the nearest private hospital. This is a classic case.

This is how most of the patients taken to government hospitals end up lending in private hospitals. After this repeated experience people choose to go to private hospitals directly without going to government hospitals. That is why private hospitals have come up everywhere. It is a proof that our public health system is not working. You cannot call a massive building a hospital if it lacks the basic facilities of a hospital. It is an irony that these days we see massive structures aplenty devoid of any purpose in this time of construction-centric development.

Let us again get back to Zubeen Garg and Maina Naik. We have absolutely nothing against using an air ambulance for Zubeen Garg. We aren’t that audacious to compare the talent of Zubeen Garg with the talent of Maina Naik. But when Maina Naik and the likes need emergency treatment, who will make arrangements for an air ambulance for them? Everyone cannot be equally talented but shouldn’t everybody enjoy the right to live equally?

Here another question comes to our mind. Who was responsible for the public health system in Assam for a long time? Then isn’t the present chief minister of Assam responsible for the ills of our public health system?

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Paresh Malakar

Paresh Malakar is a commentator based in Guwahati. He can be reached at: