The Sikkim Progressive Youth Forum (SPYF) is currently all over the news for leading a foot march called ‘Gangtok Chalo’ from their headquarter in Gyalshing, West District to the capital city of Gangtok, demanding better medical facilities at the district hospital.The forum has declared that the movement will only subside once the demands put forward by the SPYF have materialised. The right to protest peacefully is a fundamental right of every citizen and this protest is allowing the government to hear the voice of the disgruntled youth. This is the essence of democracy and it is good to see our youth wake up politically to express their demands and grievances.
The key demands of the SPYF are that the state government ensure that proper medical facilities are made available in the district hospital so that poor people do not suffer with the extra burden of medical services from having to avail services from private diagnosis centres. The organization further demanded the state government makes provision for necessary medical equipments (mainly the diagnosis machineries e.gCitiscan, MRI, Digital X-Ray) in the hospital at the earliest. This includes the facility of a blood bank as one of main demand of the forum.Moreover, the SPYF has accused the Health Department of not adhering and implementing the rules and norms under the India Public Health Standards (IPHS).These are genuine demands to which the relevant departments are answerable.
However, the press release from the Health Department shows a different reality, shedding some light on the other side of the picture that the District Hospital Gyalshing meets the criteria laid down under District Hospital (DH) strengthening guideline which is the initial step for IPHS. The existing infrastructure should be fully utilized first, and only then further new infrastructures should be created with a proper prospective plan. It further stated that the DH meets most of the essential criteria for IPHS and DH strengthening for District population.It also explained that certain demographic factors such as low population results in low bed occupancy. People from surrounding regions often head to Namchi or Jorethang for medical aid. Under the norms there are 5 types of district hospitals. Keeping the demographics in point, the Gyalshing District Hospital has been designed and functions as a “Type 5” district hospital. A Blood Bank Unit which is not even mandatory under the rules, is under construction and so is space for TRAUMA centre and a unit for Dialysis Service. Space for CT Scan machine has also been identified.Furthermore, the department has said that on many occasions in the past they have informed and invited SPYF over many medical issues and programmes regarding district hospitals, but they have been unwilling to cooperate.
It appears that this is a classic case of miscommunication between the two parties involved. Is SPYF’s dissent informed and reasoned? Is it just to continue this protest while not willing to engage in a transparent dialogue with the health department? Did the Health Department do enough to satiate the forum’s queries in the past? Maybe if they had done so, the forum wouldn’t have felt compelled to escalate the issue in this manner. While informed dissent is essential in a democracy, the next step is for the parties to engage in direct dialogue with each other and come to an agreement. That is the way towards progress in our society.