Bringing the 'care' into the healthcare sector

Mumbai’s newer five-star, uber-luxe hospitals are always in the news. From politicians to films stars and the Johnny-come-latelys, everyone checks in to these highly recommended spaces for their world-class, state-of-the-art facilities.

While most of these luxurious hospitals receive a thumbs up for their all-round services, thanks to a line-up of the most respected and biggest doctors on board as well as sensitive support staff (including customer care and administration) there remain a few bad apples that seem to have missed a vital factor in their quest to press all buttons, and compete with the big league.

A hospital should be sensitive to look into every element of the word ‘care’

The former factor is almost always a non-issue: Mumbai’s hospitals (and patients) have always been blessed with services from the very best on board. It is the later aspect that tends to add to the stress levels of the next of kin, as this writer was to discover some time back. While doing the rounds at one of the city’s oldest, reputed hospitals in central Mumbai, one was pleasantly surprised and reassured at various points of the warmth, compassion and sensitivity of its staff, be it the cleaning staff, the billing department and some of the biggest names in Mumbai, if not India’s medical landscape being on call, 24x7. Along the way, as one was tending to matters at hand, this trait across the board struck a chord about a hospital that was living and working around the true meaning of the word ‘CARE’.

Convenience necessitated that at a later stage, one had to shift to a new hospital in the eastern suburbs. On paper, this new hospital seemed like the right choice — reputed, big name, bigger branding and with it, sky-high expectations of a similar if not better experience.

It wasn’t to be. The nightmare began at the checking-in phase. Rude, impatient staff greeted us at the customer care (yes!) section. They seemed to forget that one doesn’t walk into hospitals for a picnic or for reading time, or perhaps, to chill in their popular canteen. Stress of inexplicable levels is usually topmost on most minds. Wheelchair-ridden patients were made to wait for hours despite prior arrangements, before moving to a room, senior family members were spoken to with scant respect and unless firm, repeated requests were made, as one realised, it was impossible to get things moving. One was at pains to gauge as to what counts as customer care, or if these people behind such counters were even remotely aware of the sector they work in.

While the doctors and nurses on call soothed the frazzled nerves and anxious moments, the support staff continued to jar the senses at various points. The final rites of this insipid, forgettable experience were when the time came for the patient to be moved out of the hospital via an ambulance. When that moment arrived, the ambulance staff removed the sheet covers in a most disrespectful manner. The rough, inhumanly method of moving the comatose patient would’ve given any of the family’s kin a stress attack. Normal procedures, we were told.

Later on, on exchanging notes, one realised that such cases were common. One shudders to imagine what similar horror stories might have unfolded in these so-called quality healthcare spaces. Clearly, the powers that be, ought to look into this equally integral aspect of the 360-degree spiel that is paraded about most big-ticket hospitals.
Dietician-approved meals and well-starched uniforms don’t always save the day.

— The writer is Features Editor, MiD DAY 

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