Srinagar: Two elderly women accompanying a girl in 20s from Ramban awaited an X-Ray at Bone and Joints. Bundles of blankets and a few bags over their shoulders, they jostled in the sea of people to help the young patient, her torso in plaster, get inside the building.
The belongings were their beddings for the night, for the 20th night that they were spending in the corridor of the Hospital. Many more nights awaited.
The night scenes in Kashmir’s most of the specialty hospitals are the same. Blankets and bundles line up the corridors, attendants of patients struggling for space, trying to steer clear of washrooms and dustbins, entrances and doctors’ rooms.
The hospitals present scenes of misery in absence of attendant Sarai: a place where attendants accompanying admitted patients could keep their belongings, cook, eat and get some sleep.
At SMHS Hospital, the building for attendant Sarai was reallocated to serve as a make-shift OPDs for many departments after floods hit Srinagar in 2014. Now that most departments are back to their original locations, a ‘temporary’ OPD for Super Specialty Hospital has been going on in the premises for years.
At GB Pant Hospital, the dearth of space has not allowed the administration to allocate any area for the attendants. At Bone and Joint Hospital, the scenario is the same.
These hospitals together have over 1500 beds and treat patients from entire Kashmir and many districts in Jammu province. The new Super Specialty Hospital too has no allocation for attendants. At SKIMS Bemina as well, the patients and their attendants have the same state of misery.
Except SKIMS Soura, none of the tertiary care hospitals in Kashmir has an attendant accommodation. SKIMS Soura, on the other hand in recent years has been able to set up decent rooms just outside the Institute, limited but nevertheless a boon for hundreds hailing from far off districts and under treatment.
A senior faculty member Greater Kashmir spoke to said the absence of Sarai was a major set-back to healthcare delivery in Kashmir. He said there often are patients who have to either spend thousands of rupees on “dingy private rooms” rented outside the hospitals or commuting from home to hospital. “The Government must address this issue on priority,” he said.
At GB Pant Children Hospital, the corridors are not even wide enough to accommodate a person lying down vertically. Outside the Neonatal ICU, in the same space where shoe racks are lined up, they huddle up for a little rest in-between the feeds and diaper changes of the newborns admitted for treatment. A grandmother is heard making a plea for a little space for her daughter who has delivered a baby days back; A father is heard arguing with another who has “stretched his legs too much”; and discomforting noises of people seeking some comfort.
Medical Superintendent GB Pant Hospital, Dr Nazir Ahmed Chaudhary said the hospital was in the process of shifting to a 500-bedded building in Bemina. “We may have some reprieve there,” he said, adding however, that no Sarai had been constructed there as well. Medical Superintendent Bone and Joint Hospital, Dr Mian Suhail said the hospital was an old one and new buildings were in the process of coming up. “We will be discussing the need for Sarai with the administration,” he said.