Healthcare is a priority. Like other states, J&K too gives special attention to healthcare facilities. Yet, there are areas where we need to introspect.
In north Kashmir, sub-district hospital, Sopore is emerging at par with District hospital associated to Govt. Medical College at Kant Bagh, Baramulla. This hospital caters to hundreds of patients every day. But how sad, some dark spots eclipse the bright side of the hospital!
It was 20th of September 2021, when I admitted my spouse in SDH, Sopore. What made me not to go elsewhere was my great faith in my doctor - a dynamic doctor, humble and renowned gynecologist who attends Operation Theater on Saturdays and Mondays. It was on her advice, I preferred this hospital. Having kept ready all the required tests, I was told to make an admit file before the surgery. It is from this point where all husbands have to face the toughest ordeal of ‘walsa desai chai’ by the paramedical staff and others. Thank God, I was accompanied by an ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) worker who was my wife’s elder cousin sister. Otherwise I had to serve this chai, right from making an admit file till discharge (referral) slip is issued.
As I escorted my better-half towards the operation theater, I was so worried about what would happen because it was a moment between life and death. I would have gone some ten steps ahead in the corridor to wish my wife well, when I was told to go out. When I came out of the theater-corridor, I was informed to arrange clothes for the new baby. Though this news took away all my worry and unease, yet, I, inwardly, was quite anxious about my spouse. On getting back to the operation-theatre with new clothes for the new arrival, I was very warmly welcomed inside the corridor as if I had done some adventure. Who knew that the warm welcome had so much ‘chai to pay’ in store?
When I handed the baby-clothes over to them, I was cordoned off to give chai. Refusal was no way an option as I had to remain in the hospital with my wife in the coming days. While fumbling in my pocket for a moment, they stood staring at me like a leopard gazes a deer. On taking out 500 rupees-note, I extended my hand towards them. But they got so angry; “Ase tche chohr, ase kyeh bane emh saeth?” (We are four, and it is not sufficient for us). Reluctantly, I paid Rs. 300 more. As I headed towards the door, the door-keeper stopped me to pay him as well. He emphatically refused to open the door unless he was given ‘chai’. Thinking it the last ‘chai’ to be paid, I gave him Rs. 100 and left.
When my ailing wife was taken towards the post-surgical ward on the stretcher, I thought, I got rid of this ‘walse desai chai’ nuisance. No sooner she was placed on the bed than I was again cordoned off by at least a dozen female sweepers to be given the ‘chai’. This time the cordon was too tight to flee. I was entirely bewildered when they started congratulating me on having become a father. Neither could I say NO, nor could I protest against. In order to relax their cordon around me a bit, my mother-in-law tried to intervene by distributing the sweets among them. But they clearly declined. My reluctance not only made the entire ward look jumbled but it greatly worried my wife. Without any further delay, I took out Rs. 1000 and told an acquaintance to deal with them as I had to take my baby to the pediatric ward for check-up. Yet, this was not the last ‘chai’.
On reaching the pediatric ward, some senior nurses no doubt injected my baby happily yet the glad dealing was a clear indication of ‘chai’ to be paid. I had, intentionally, tried to hook myself elsewhere but it was of no avail. I got released only when I paid them some 200 rupees.
In the evening, when my relatives thronged the ward to enquire about the health of my wife, some sweepers took full advantage of the situation. They comforted my wife so sympathetically for their ‘chai’ as if they were my close relatives. And they didn’t leave the site unless they were paid too. Height of the things is this: sisters who were on night duty also repeatedly asked for ‘chai’, I firmly denied because I had completely gone out of pocket.
The purpose of this write-up is not to create problem for anybody but to sensitize about this ‘walsa desai chai’. The hospital administration should gear up and take steps to ends this practice. There is a dire need to activate the administration and make this hospital efficient like District Hospital cum Govt. Medical College, Kant Bagh, Baramulla which was recently awarded 1st Prize in district hospital category in the country under Kayakalp initiative for providing satisfactory health facilities to the public. The concerned Block Medical Officer should strictly take action against all those miscreants whether paramedical or class 4th. who try to loot attendants.
Being good attendants and patients is part of healthcare. Another type of bad experience was the rude behavior of the security personnel called ‘black cats’. They keep 'meowing' quite often in the wards and irritate the patients as well. Though their duty is to minimize the mess inside the wards which is good for patients, yet hospital management must teach them how to behave gently. These security men must be advised that being rude with attendants does not solve any problem. It rather makes it grave. Sweet language not only sets straight everything, but it also wins many friends.
My humble request to higher ups of this institution is to look into this grievance of ‘walsa desai chai’ and address the same. What is the fun of installing CCTV (closed-circuit-television) cameras in the wards when these ‘walsa desai chai’ culprits are not taught a lesson. We can bring laurels to this sub-district hospital provided we are committed and devoted. Come, let’s stop this evil.
Manzoor Akash is teacher, Department of School Education, J&K