Sunday, January 17, 2010

Century-old Cheluvamba Hospital

This is no way to treat pregnant women and new-born babies
Have you visited the Maternity Ward at the century-old Cheluvamba Hospital in city? If you haven't, here we give you a peek into the way the pregnant women and the new-born babies are treated by the hospital ayahs and nurses. No pregnant woman, who once gets admitted to this hospital, will ever want to visit it again, come what may.
Pregnant women and those who have just delivered a baby need special attention and proper care as their physical and psychological conditions are fragile, particularly after the intense labour pain they undergo during the delivery.
However, at home, they are given proper care with good nutritious food, warm clothing, rest and care. Those poor women, who have to be admitted to hospitals, naturally go to government hospitals hoping that the admission and treatment are free or at best, minimum. Unfortunately, as the old adage goes, nothing is free in this world. Government hospitals are the living examples of that adage. They have turned out to be holes in the already empty pockets of the poor.
Cheluvamba Hospital, earlier known as Vanivilas Hospital, was setup in 1880, that is 129 years ago to provide medical services to poor and needy women. Here too nothing is free. Not even the bed you sleep on or for that matter even the floor you get to sleep, when there are no beds. Apart from beds, to avail even medicines and other facilities at the Hospital after admission, one has to pay bribe. A few patients, who have spent a couple of days at the hospital and since discharged, narrated their harrowing experiences thus:
Pushpalatha, who was two months into her pregnancy, had come to the hospital for a routine check-up but was advised to get admitted in the hospital as her child had to be aborted due to some complications. She revealed the scenes she saw at the hospital. It was a common practice for the ayahs and nurses to beat women in labour pain, when they start crying in pain. They are told to shut their mouth and stop crying by asking them what could be the most humiliating remark in public: "Did it hurt when you enjoyed sex? Why cry now?!"
Pushpalatha's neighbour, who too had been admitted to the hospital for her delivery, recoun-ted her experience. She had lost three children due to blood sugar complications at very young age. When she came here for the delivery of her fourth child, the 40-year-old pregnant woman was harassed because of her poverty, as she was unable to pay money to the ayahs and nurses as and when they demanded. The couple had to even sell the woman's mangalasutra to pay bribe to the ayahs and nurses.
It is only money that gets things done here. Greed for money is so rampant that immediately after delivery, the family members have to cough up money just to know the gender of the baby — Rs. 150 for the girl child and Rs. 200 for boy child ! Patients have to start paying them the moment they step in to the hospital until they get discharged. Entry to the hospital for the relatives of the patient is restricted from 6 am to 8 am and 4 pm to 6 pm. The person guarding the entry door demands Rs.10 every time a relative enters the hospital after visiting hours.
The problems of patients and their poor families are not restricted to money matters alone. The renowned Cheluvamba Hospital lacks even beds, cots, bedsheets not to mention medicines and trained staff. On entering the ward, the first scene one encounters is utter chaos. Women who have just delivered are made to sleep on the floors along with their new-born babies, on a thin bedsheet. Those who can afford to pay money are provided with a bed and cot while others have to sleep on the unclean floor. Sometimes, space will not be available even to sleep on the floors in spite of being admitted.
The most pathetic sight is that of the babies, which have not yet opened their eyes to the world. They too are made to sleep on the damp floor, with the possibility of contracting infections. The other common sight is the women’s relatives running around frantically for hours trying get a bed for the pregnant women or mother and the new-born baby.
One relative of a patient, speaking to SOM on condition of anonymity, said that when women are admitted to the hospital and are required to undergo laboratory tests, they are asked to go to private labs in city, in spite of the facility being available within the hospital. There are many instances of pregnant women being sent out to diagnostic centres at 1 am in the night, in spite of the fact that labs and blood banks are located right inside the hospital premises. Imagine the suffering of these pregnant women going through excruciating labour pain even in the middle of the night.
Inside the hospital, the corridors reek of DDT powder. While investigating the cause for this, we saw patients vomiting right in an open area between the corridor and what appeared to be a garden at the centre. As the toilets were not cleaned and were always overflowing with filth and garbage, and sometimes too crowded, these women had no other option but to use these open spaces. DDT powder was just sprayed on top of it all to cover up the mess. Toilets are not cleaned regularly and their number is quite inadequate considering the number of patients who are admitted.
On the ground floor, an empty room with a board 'Ward No.4' was dumped with discarded cots and used beds. It is surprising that the concerned authorities never thought of cleaning this room and making it available for the patients, in spite of the fact that so many women lie on bare floors for lack of adequate space.
The patients and their relatives too are responsible in a way for the mismanagement and the filth surrounding the hospital. They spit and throw garbage everywhere, unaware that it is a hospital and should be kept clean as many who come here are illiterate and are from rural background. Adequate dustbins could be provided by the hospital authorities with signboards advising them to use the same.
The hospital administration too seems to be blind to all th-ese things. When will Cheluvamba Hospital get a rebirth and become patient-friendly?
[Wednesday 7th October 2009]

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