BMC's sham 2016 civic hospital upgrade exposed: One ward boy for a hospital of 1000 patients
Enter at your risk -- that's what the warning sign outside Mumbai's BMC-run hospitals should read. Following incessant complaints about poor infrastructure, including lack of wheelchairs and stretchers, and the shortage of ward boys to transfer patients into wards, mid-day conducted a test drive across key civic hospitals in the city. And here's what we found.
Nair Hospital, Mumbai Central
Relatives are seen assisting the patients to Nair Hospital. Pics/ Bipin Kokate
During a visit to the hospital, this reporter found only two stretchers and a wheelchair in the casualty ward. The hospital sees around 1,000 patients daily. The one ward boy sitting in the casualty area claimed that he was the only person on duty that day.
"At any given point in time, we have only one ward boy deputed here due to shortage of staff. So, whenever any critical patient comes to the hospital, I assist in transferring them from the casualty ward to operation theatre or other units," said the ward boy, who refused to be identified.
Raju Sheikh, who had come in a taxi with his 55-year-old mother Fatima, who was down with a urinary bladder infection, was fortunate to find a stretcher. However, Sheikh and his cousins had to lift Fatima from one ward to another. "If I start transferring each and every person, the emergency cases will suffer," the ward boy said, while justifying why he didn't assist Sheikh.
Another patient, however, was not so lucky. Kushal Singhal, 35, who was suffering from a severe stomach ache, couldn't find himself a stretcher. Kushal had to walk to the casualty ward with the help of his father Yuvraj and his mother. "I live in Tardeo and this is the closest hospital for us. Each time I have come here, I've never found any ward boy to help shift patients. They only take bodies to the mortuary."
Sion Hospital, Sion
Sion Hospital sees most patients from outside Mumbai, who require specialty care. Kalim Mulla, 25, who had fever, had to be transferred from a private hospital in Nerul on an emergency basis, after his pressure dropped drastically. His neighbour, Umar Sheikh, said, "I came to Sion Hospital for the first time with Kalim, and for around 15 to 20 minutes, I was clueless as to how to get help. Later, security guards in the casualty ward told me that there were no stretchers or wheelchairs. Fortunately, the ambulance in which we brought Kalim, had a detachable stretcher. We used that to shift him to the casualty ward."
One ward boy for a hospital of 1000 patients
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the hospital personnel on duty told mid-day that the hospital had procured brand new wheelchairs and stretchers.
"But, the administration doesn't provide them as they feel that the relatives will never return them. Also, there are no ward boys available to transfer patients. This is usually the job of the relatives," the staff said.
KEM Hospital, Parel
While this hospital is the busiest public facility in the city, only one wheelchair was found at the entrance with no ward boys or personnel to share information about the process or formalities.
A patient on a wheelchair waits for assistance at KEM Hospital
One of the on-duty doctors said, "Patients' relatives often complain to us about non-availability of ward boys, wheelchairs and stretchers. There are two ward boys appointed to carry patients, but we aren't sure if they attend to each and every patient," the doctor said, on condition of anonymity. "If any accident victim or senior citizen patient arrives, relatives or police carry them on their shoulders. We should at least have basic infrastructure," he added.
When we tried to contact the on-duty ward boy at night, we were told that he had gone to transfer some patient to another ward. Despite waiting for over 30 minutes, he never showed up.
JJ Hospital, Byculla
JJ Hospital, which is the only government-run medical facility in the city, seemed to have better infrastructure than any of the civic hospitals. Again, while there were no stretchers or wheelchairs outside the casualty ward, ward boys were appointed at each ward to transfer patients. The casualty and emergency wards had five ward boys in total, who were active even till as late as 3 am.
'We have ample number of stretchers'
Dr Avinash Supe, dean of Sion, KEM and Nair hospitals, refuted claims of shortage of wheelchairs and stretchers. "Every major BMC hospital has ample number of wheelchairs and stretchers. In fact, NGOs donate it to us at regular intervals. But, there should be some mechanism to monitor their movement to facilitate better patient management," said Supe.
As far as ward boys go, he said that every hospital had five ward boys in the casualty and emergency room. "Sometimes they go to transfer patients. But, we will definitely look into this," he said.