Twenty-three-year-old Priya waits to grab the first glimpse of her two-hour-old niece at the waiting space outside the labour room at the Hindu Rao hospital in Civil Lines. She had arrived at the hospital early at 7 am, and has not been able to relieve herself for over eight hours because she was “repulsed” by the condition of the toilet.
“One will fall sick just by the sight of the bathrooms, leave aside using them. It is just not possible. There are three or four cubicles inside the bathrooms per floor for women to use and almost all of them are so dirty. The situation is the same on all the floors,” she says.
Public facilities in poor state
A resident of Sonia Vihar near Wazirabad in north-east Delhi, Priya has been a frequent visitor at the hospital, which is run by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC).
According to her, requests by visitors to authorities for clean bathrooms have fallen on deaf ears.
“We are even shooed away when we request hospital workers to clean the bathrooms. There is always ankle-deep water in the bathrooms and sometimes full of faeces. I can take you with me to show [the state of bathrooms]. It is that bad. Who would want to use them? We would rather control than go back home with infections,” she says with a prescription in her hand.
However, the treatment has been largely “good” at the Hindu Rao hospital, the largest multi-specialty hospital run by the municipal corporation.
Sitting beside Priya, Arun concurred with her. “We have no complaints with the treatment here. Doctors are focused and attend to the patients to the best of their capabilities and in fact are never rude. But it is true that the sanitation facilities are in a pitiful condition,” says the 37-year-old.
As one moves towards the paediatric ward, the floor reeks of urine and the dampened walls on almost all the floors of the hospital are prominent, apart from the stairs painted with red stains of paan (betel-leaves) and gutkha.
Patients frequently request to be shifted from beds due to dampened walls from which chunks of cement fall.
“My brother is admitted here after his motorcycle accident. He was recently shifted to another bed because of wall-paints cracking. Plus, there are stray animals inside the hospital. Sometimes monkeys also walk around. There are poll promises, but why do you need an election to improve conditions in hospitals because it is a matter of health, which cannot be delayed at any cost. These parties keep pointing fingers at each other but ultimately hardly anyone does anything and we suffer,” says Aseem, a resident of Timarpur.
To top other issues, the medicine store in the precincts of the hospital “does not have enough stock” of medicines.
“At least 70% of the medicines are available here at the hospital, but the rest need to be bought from outside and that costs us a bomb. Besides, the lift seldom works. When my sister was in labour yesterday and came here for delivery, the elevator was not working and there was no wheelchair available to take her to the labour room. So, we had to wait for half-an-hour downstairs to arrange for one,” says Priya. Her claims were backed by several others.
According to a senior doctor, who has been associated with the Hindu Rao for 20 years, the amenities have deteriorated at the hospital over the years.
“Washrooms don’t get water supply for two-three days. Even the doctors must manage their own water and wall collapses have become a common affair. When matters are raised, they fall on deaf ears. Plus, many doctors have left due to delay in salaries,” he says.
Scarcity of drinking water
Around seven kilometres away from Hindu Rao, Kasturba Hospital, also run by the NDMC, suffers from a severe lack of drinking water. Located a few metres away from the iconic Jama Masjid, the multispecialty hospital is overcrowded with visitors and patients. However, there is little space for visitors and most of them have had to occupy the ramp meant for wheelchairs.
“Most of the days, there is not a single drop of water inside the water filters in the hospital and we have to buy drinking water from outside,” says Saleema, a resident of Daryaganj. Even when the filters are working, it is thronged by people to wash their faces, utensils and clothes because the bathroom taps often run dry.
“We feel disgusted when we go to fill bottles for drinking water and someone is washing their mouth right there. I don’t think this would have happened if there was enough water supply in the bathrooms. The flushes work but the taps never do. Therefore, we buy drinking water from outside. It becomes expensive so we drink less because some of us have to stay here for longer for our patients,” says 58-year-old Anam, whose niece has gone into labour.
Besides water, availability of medicines remains a problem in Kasturba Hospital, like in Hindu Rao.
Patients at Kasturba need to remind the attendants for food as it is generally not available on time. “Only one person is allowed with the patient inside and that person has to fetch food for all means – breakfast, lunch and dinner. We have to repeatedly alert the staff for the patients’ food,” says Namrata. However, there is no complaint about the quality of food and the treatment at the hospital.
The Rajan Babu Tuberculosis Hospital in GTB Nagar, which falls under the NDMC, is in a rather sorry state with its building deemed unsafe. “It is a good hospital and my father has been referred to here by Safdarjung Hospital because of it being a TB specialty hospital and the quality of treatment here. However, look at the condition of the building. It looks like it may crumble any moment,” says Kartik.
In January, this year, the Delhi urban development ministry had ordered an inquiry into allegations made by Aam Aadmi Party MLA from Kalkaji, Atishi Marlena, that the hospital was “unfit” for use.
However, Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor, had dubbed the order “a politically motivated move intended to malign the north corporation’s image”.
Patriot reached out to the municipal bodies multiple times but none of them responded. The Delhi MCD elections are scheduled on December 4.
The MCW Polyclinic, primarily known for maternity services, however, bucks the trend and is in a good shape. The kin of patients sitting outside seemed satisfied with everything regarding the Jangpura clinic that is run by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation.
“The doctors are always available and they take excellent care of our patients. Besides the doctors, the medical staff is also superb. It feels like some private hospital. The bathrooms and other facilities, including food, are always of good quality. We do not have any complaints and are happy that we have this clinic here,” says Manu, a resident of Bhogal.
“Whatever medicines we are prescribed are always found in the medical store inside the premises. So, we don’t ever have to spend an extra buck for anything,” he says.
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