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Kishore Talukdar
Date of Publish: 2017-03-23

Sontoli mini PHC: A healthcare centre in Assam without an obstetrician that handles average 10 child births daily

Sontoli mini Primary Health Centre (PHC), in Boko area in Assam’s Kamrup district does not have an obstetrician. However, on an average ten women give birth at the PHC daily. The PHC, inaugurated in 1974 by the then President of India Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, caters to the needs of medical care of about 1.75 lakh population.

For the residents of several Chars ( sand bars) in the midst of the Brahmaputra river under Sontoli area, this PHC, about 80 km off Assam’s capital city Guwahati, is the only healthcare centre. Char residents rush patients on mechanised country boats to reach the river bankline from where they need to travel a distance of three kilometers to reach the PHC. An ambulance is the most essential need for those people to save time in reaching the PHC. However, for the past three years the PHC has no ambulance.

The PHC received an ambulance in 2007 which fulfilled the requirement of the Char dwellers to a great extent. However, after running about 4 lakh km, the ambulance has been lying defunct and in disrepair since 2015. Patients and their attendants have been facing harrowing experiences in the absence of ambulance service since then.

For residents of vast areas in parts of Goalpara, Barpeta Nalbcari and Kamrup districts and several Chars of Kamrup district this PHC in Sontoli Char is the only healthcare centre for primary as well as emergency healthcare. Apart from the pregnant women, other patients of such a vast area also visit the PHC for treatment. On an average, 100 patients avail treatment at the Outpatients Department of the PHC every day. However, for the skeleton staff of the PHC providing treatment to so many patients become a herculean task.

Medical and Health Officer of the PHC Rabiul Hussain told nezine.com that the generator of the PHC is of low capacity and they urgently require a high power generator to overcome the problem caused by frequent disruption in power supply in Sontoli area.

He also said that the PHC does not have any observation room for pregnant women as the only observation room had to be converted into a Duty room of attending nurses. The PHC currently has four doctors.

“We need a 100-bedded hospital to cater to the healthcare requirement of such a huge population. However, there are only six beds in this PHC,” laments Azad Usman Gani, a social activist of the area and the Principal of Azad Educational Trust.

The PHC needs at least ten GNM nurses to handle huge number of patients but it currently has only three nurses and a laboratory technician.

“The PHC also needs at least two pharmacists in view of such a huge number patients availing treatment every day. Besides, many patients often have to travel to Guwahati as the PHC lacks an ultrasound machine. The PHC also needs a child specialist as many women give birth at the healthcare centre but it does not have any child specialist,” he adds.

In 1974 this healthcare centre was set up as a State Dispensary. It was upgraded to a Block PHC in 1984. However, it was later downgraded to a mini PHC in between before being re-designated and upgraded as a Community Health Centre, construction of which is currently in progress.

Kishore Talukdar

(Kishore Talukdar is an independent journalist based in Guwahati. His areas of interest include Development journalism and Environment journalism. He can be contacted at tdrkishore@gmail.com )

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