Thousands of survivors of the gas disaster in Bhopal could be facing a crisis in medical care after 14 of the 15 doctors at The Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre walked out of their jobs last week, according to multiple reports in the Indian press.
The Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre opened in 2001 under the direction of the Supreme Court of India specifically for the treatment of victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster. A central government-run facility which provides a range of medicines and treatments to survivors, the hospital has faced a series of crises in recent years, which culminated in a mass walkout by doctors and senior medical staff last Wednesday, January 22nd.
According to an article published in the Times of India earlier this month, the hospital already had no specialist doctors for the treatment of renal or respiratory disorders, nor any expert oncologists after the closure of the oncology department back in 2017. Although the hospital website lists a Surgical Oncology and a Nephrology Department, further investigation shows there were no staff employed in these departments even prior to last week’s mass staff exodus.
The reasons cited by the staff for their resignation were lack of infrastructure, including shortage of medicines and surgical equipment, as well as denial of staff promotions by management. The resignations also come shortly after a 40-day strike period by hospital staff over conditions and pay. According to the Hindustan Times, the strike ended with the staff being forced to concede to the conditions of the BMHRC Trust before resuming their jobs, and this may have been a further catalyst for the subsequent resignations.
According to the India Today, more than 4,000 patients visit BMHRC each day. With just one doctor left on staff as of last Thursday, the hospital is now at the point of crisis. Despite promises of mass new hirings, public trust in the Department of Health Research to turn around the fate of the BMHRC remains low. The State of Madya Pradesh Gas Relief and Rehabilitation Minister, Arif Aqueel, urged the Union Government to either manage the affairs of the BMHRC properly or hand over management to the State Government in a press statement on Friday.
While the fate of the BMHRC remains uncertain, what is clear is that in its mismanagement of the hospital, the Indian Government has once again failed in its obligation to the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster. With thousands now struggling to secure vital medical care at the other available health centres in Bhopal, it is more important than ever that we continue to support the survivors in any way we can and continue the good work taking place at the Sambhavna and Chingari clinics.