A father has accused Lal Ded Hospital that he was forced to pay a bribe at the entry point to the Labour Room when he tried to take his newborn for emergency treatment.
The Security of the hospital created hindrances till he paid them more money, the altercation causing delay in rushing the newborn to the Neonatal ICU of the hospital. The newborn, he has alleged, lost life due to this delay. “I pleaded, but they did not listen,” he lamented.
A week ago, another altercation at the hospital was brought to light. A young man who had lost his baby in-vitro was required to sign a Consent Form.
While his wife wreathed with labour pain and he was called in the Labour Room area, the Security stopped him and beat him up allegedly for insisting that he had a purpose for being there.
Attendants of patients are pushed, baton charged and abused almost at every hospital here. These are daily scenes, the daily ugliness of hospitals.
The other day, I witnessed a security guard at Lal Ded Hospital swooshing out women from the hospital lawn. “If you are waiting for the rounds to be over, wait outside the hospital, not in here,” he ordered.
The brief to the security and guards posted in the hospitals needs to be a more human one. The protocol needs to be clearer than ‘stop entry somehow’. The ‘tip culture’ has continued despite the costly CCTV installations. For a poor family, shelling out a few currency notes at every entry and exit is extortion. And it happens right under the nose of administrators of the hospitals.
At the Casualty of GB Pant Children Hospital, a crowd of parents with sick children wait for hours. They plead and shout, wailing children in their laps. There is no chair or a bench for them to rest their tired legs, or rest their sick children.
Those whose legs give away, crash on floor or stairs, often to be goaded up again by the Security at the hospital. It takes hours to reach a couple of doctors on Emergency duty. Hundreds of children from across Kashmir seek Emergency treatment at this hospital everyday. Yet, the Casualty area has neither the staff to expedite emergency treatment, nor a waiting area.
At SMHS Hospital, at SKIMS Soura, at all other hospitals in Kashmir, masses accompanying the patients get treated like intruders and offenders.
The lack of basic amenities like adequate seating for the hours of wait, adequate number of stretchers and wheelchairs for sick patients, clean and safe toilets, and a pantry area have only worsened the experience of the people who solely depend on the public healthcare system. The fact that a majority of hospitals have no patient Sarai is a reflection of how the healthcare system has looked at patient care and healthcare delivery.
The absence of these amenities and quality of experience at hospitals does not reflect in numbers that are uploaded on the websites of the Union Ministries to qualify for rankings. These are not even talked about in the grand meetings that the Government holds with the officials. These are not even counted as part of healthcare delivery. A humane face of hospitals could make a difference to the overall quality of healthcare.
On the other side, almost every day, doctors and staff at the hospitals find themselves shouted at by the attendants. Many times, doctors have been beaten up by families of patients at the hospitals. In 2017, resident doctors of all GMC Srinagar hospitals went on a strike to protest assault on a junior doctor on night duty. Junior doctors, who are at the forefront of patient care, demanded many things as part of the redress system to minimize the conflicts with patients and attendants. These included adequate numbers of security personnel to regulate patient flow, proper signage and directions at the hospitals, round the clock presence of a senior doctor at the hospital and a law criminalizing an assault on a doctor. Much has remained on papers only.
The dilapidated and sickly look of hospitals for lack of maintenance and upkeep adds to the atmosphere of gloom that there is. Over the years, the Government and its functionaries have been citing the ‘load’ of patients in the Government sector for all that is not right or that has not been fixed. No doubt, Kashmir’s 97 percent people are catered at Government Hospitals only. The fact that the healthcare sector is one of the largest employers of people here leaves little scope for excuses.
Just a month ago, the Government stated that J&K has allocated 5 percent of its budget to the Health Sector and it was the highest in country. Much of this budget would go into buying sophisticated equipment and replacing buildings. Minor jobs and items, stretchers, latches for washrooms, replacements for the leaking pipelines and a bench for waiting on would be missed again.
A kind and empathetic strategy for managing the sick and their accompanying people could be what Kashmir needs the most. There are no marks for that right now. Would the hospitals still try?