A lady walks in carrying a baby boy, her face hidden under the ‘burkah’ . She was holding the hand of a four year-old girl with her other hand and that little girl had a small paper toy clutched firmly in her hands. Another boy, not older than 10 years was standing at the door, wondering whether or not to enter the room.
The lady sat on the small wooden chair besides my table and started with the usual ailments that her baby boy had been suffering. After listening to her, I asked her for the OP prescription. She calls her daughter who was now playing with her elder brother. She runs towards her mother who quickly snatches the paper toy from her and starts unwrapping the cylindrical paper roll. I took all the papers from the lady and with difficulty found the infant’s prescription to scribble down the medicines. When I was done consulting with all four of them, she said, “my eldest daughter too has fever and a runny nose, she is at her aunt’s place right now, please do write the same medicines for her too”.
This is a usual scene at the OPD, but the thing to understand here is that, I examined all these four patients within 10 minutes! There were about 150 patients on that rainy day. Even if I start seeing the patients at 9am sharp, I will not be able to finish the OPD before 2pm, that too without even taking a small tea-break! (not counting the time taken for small surgical procedures like wound-suturing, and drainage of abscess). Funny thing is that, I have become used to this kind of doctor-patient relation. I had a guilty feeling at the start of this career, but i gradually realised that I have limitations working in this kind of a set-up and this is the way to go forward. The patients on the other hand are already well rehearsed in this drill. Consulting a government doctor is more important to them during the fever season. They actually do not care much about the quality of care they are getting from the government hospitals.
Being the only doctor in a hospital is tough enough, but still the OPD at my Primary Health Centre has been going just fine for the past two years. During the summer, the number of patients visiting the hospital decreases to around 100 and those are the days which I prefer more. But, to be in charge of a hospital means more than just conducting the OPD. It is difficult and challenging, but very much possible. I know, I will write more about those responsibilities in the coming days.