India-built hospital ‘rusts’ with disuse in Nepal

October 24th, 2008 - 11:37 am ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Oct 24 (IANS) A 25-bed hospital built with the aid of the Indian government to serve over 350,000 women in eastern Nepal has been lying unused for more than a year.In 2005, the then Indian ambassador to Nepal, Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, laid the foundation of the gynaecological hospital on the premises of the Mechi Zonal Hospital in Bhadrapur town in the tea garden district of Jhapa along the India-Nepal border.

The project was implemented by Bhadrapur municipality authorities with a grant from the Indian government to the tune of Nepali Rs.27.2 million. However, even a year after the completion of the two-storey hospital, it is yet to start functioning because of state apathy.

The municipality is yet to hand over the building officially to the hospital authorities, Mechi Zonal Hospital superintendent I.N. Mullick told IANS.

The new hospital is yet to get a single doctor as the application to the health ministry to sanction the number of personnel required for running it is yet to be approved.

“We submitted the letter to the ministry almost six months ago,” Mullick said. “However, we have not heard from them yet.”

In the meantime, the hospital building has developed cracks in the roof while the equipment, furniture and water supply have been found to be inadequate, Mullick said.

A private TV station also reported that the equipment was rusting with disuse.

“We don’t have any anaesthetist and necessary equipment like a baby incubator and resuscitation unit though we had requested for them,” Mullick said.

Some earlier projects implemented in Nepal with India’s assistance have not been functioning satisfactorily either. A small-sized hydropower project built with Indian aid fell into disuse and the government of India subsequently announced separate funding for repair.

This year, Nepal’s state media reported that a school building built with Indian assistance had collapsed within a year of construction.

The Indian embassy in Kathmandu said the local stakeholders had given an assurance that the hospital would be handed over to Mechi Zonal Hospital by mid-November.

Gopal Baglay, spokesman at the embassy, said the hospital project was implemented under India’s Small Development Projects, which are entirely community driven and locally owned and supervised.

“The responsibility for satisfactory operation, management and maintenance of the infrastructure created under these projects is with the local beneficiaries and a specific undertaking to this effect is obtained before extending government of India assistance,” Baglay said.

Regarding complaints that the equipment was not according to specifications and was sub-standard, he said the procurement was made only after due technical certification by the ministry of health and population, with the hospital superintendent being fully involved in the certification process.

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