The tragic death of the triplets born to a tribal woman within a span of 24 hours in Wayanad district underline the poor health infrastructure and medical negligence faced by the marginalized communities in Kerala.
Anitha, 27, wife of Krishnan of Valad Edathana Colony in the district suffered labour pains in her seventh month of pregnancy and was taken to the District Hospital in Mananthavady where she comes for regular checkups. The family members had carried her for about 1 km and then by jeep to the hospital. The Gynecologist on duty Dr Sushma refused to admit her directing the staff to take her to the Medical College hospital in Kozhikode. Anitha was shifted to KMC in an ambulance owned by Tribal Department with no hospital staff accompanying her. She gave birth to her first baby, a boy at a Health Centre in Panamaram, on the way to Medical College. She continued the journey giving birth to a baby girl in the ambulance at Pichilakkad. The newborns died immediately after birth. Anitha was then taken to the General Hospital in Kalpetta where the third child was born and then to KMC where the baby died. The duty doctor has been reportedly suspended for dereliction of duty by the District Medical Officer. The triplets were born to the couple after six years of wait.
The fact that the woman had to give birth at three separate places deprived of proper medical care and facilities points out the temperament of the urban citizens towards the tribals in the state. The concerned authorities, various political parties, the media and social activists would have taken it more gravely if the incident involved anyone other than those belonging to marginalized communities like the abhorigins. The protests by the parties and youth wing outfits were also limited to Wayanad. The social media activists too dint take up the issue seriously with the posts voicing their protest over the incident, low in number. The doctor and the hospital staff who refused to attend the woman symbolize the grimy face of racial supremacy of the people. Therefore it’s not unlikely that the tragic incident would soon be forgotten. No woman belonging to marginalized communities would be able to give birth to her child or give them a peaceful life unless these outlooks and approaches are questioned and rectified.
In Kerala, 31 per cent of the tribal population resides in Wayanad. The Health Department that failed in providing the basic facilities to the woman is the first to be blamed. According to the CAG report of 2013, the number of maternal deaths following delivery and poor health of children stands high in the district out of which the majority of them belong to the tribal population. While the rate of newborn deaths in Kerala has come down, it has increased from 7.72 to 9.67 in Wayanad. A recent UNICEF report says that the rate of newborn deaths in tribal areas is dangerously high. The government facilities are also scarce and inefficient. There are only five doctors allotted to the hospitals in the district in the place of 12 gynecologists out of which one of them is on a long leave. It’s the government who is at fault for its inefficiency. But it put the blame on the doctors and nurses who refuse to work in rural areas. The Health Department doesn’t take the necessary steps to ensure the medical services provided. The funds allotted for the tribals are also pocketed by the authorities. The government who neglect the welfare of these communities should be cross examined and a feasible solution should be found to the problem as soon as possible.