Patients visiting Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS) may not be aware that their suffering could have been alleviated had the state health department's plan to develop the infrastructure of the hospital been executed on time.
According to a well-placed source in the department, the government had provided IGIMS with Rs 26.1 crore to buy essential equipment for treatment of patients. However, the entire fund is lying unused till date.
According to the source, the hospital has got funds for some essential equipment to conduct CT scan, MRI, cardiac catheterisation, image intensifier, among others. These machines are of tremendous use for patients suffering from chronic diseases.
The source said the health department has provided Rs 4.5 crore to the hospital for buying the MRI machine, Rs 1.5 crore for the CT scan machine and Rs 4 crore for developing the cardiac cath lab with added features. (See graphic)
"We have also given the IGIMS Rs 10.6 crore for linear accelerator, Rs 1 crore for anaesthesia work station among other such important tools. It is because of the lethargy of the hospital authorities that patients afflicted with serious diseases are not getting treatment on the right time. We have done our part. We had given them funds but utilisation of the money is what they had to ensure," said the health department officer.
"What is irritating is that the hospital authority is sitting on the funds since 2008. We provided the fund for the linear accelerator in 2009. But the rest of the funds were disbursed in 2008," added the senior officer.
When enquired whether the health department had asked the hospital authority about the delay in buying the tools, he said: "Yes, we have. The reason behind the delay they are citing is that they could not buy the tools because the funds weren't enough."
The officer also said that the health department had provided funds to the IGIMS separately for each instrument.
"The IGIMS authority informed us that the prices of the equipment, which they had to buy since 2008, have increased. However, their explanation is not justified. It is because of their delay that they cannot buy the equipment now. Had they bought the equipment when the fund was provided to them in 2008, the problem would not have arisen. Just because they did not buy the equipment at the right time, the costs of the instruments have increased. Now, they are unable to buy the equipment with the fund provided to them by us," the officer said.
For the patients, the problem is that the lack of machines has forced them to get the tests done outside the IGIMS in private diagnostic centres.
"My wife was in excruciating pain because of Edema last Saturday. I immediately took her to IGIMS. The doctors at IGIMS prescribed a CT scan on the same day but I could not get it done on that day because I got to know that the scan machine was lying defunct at the hospital. I had to go to a private diagnostic centre the next day (Sunday), where I had to shell out around Rs 11,500 for the CT scan. If the facility would have been available at IGIMS, the cost would have been less than half I spent outside," said Sunil Agrawal, a resident of Begusarai. He quickly added that it was his wife's pain that bothered him the most when he was looking for a diagnostic centre to get the scan done.
IGIMS director Arun Kumar, however, believes that sitting on the funds disbursed for people's welfare is no crime.
"We have not done any crime by not utilising the funds. The fact is that we have not misused it," said the director, adding: "We could not utilise the funds because the money which we had got to purchase the equipment was far less than the actual prices of the tools. The difference between the actual price of an equipment and the funds was huge," he said.