Pay Rs 2 or lose your footwear

Jan 16, 2013, 06:44 IST | Naveen Nair

A woman, appointed to keep watch on footwear that has to be left outside the emergency ward by rule, now forces patients and visitors to pay Rs 2 even though there is no compulsion according to hospital rules

Want to go enter the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Casualty Ward at Sion hospital? Well, shell out Rs 2 per pair if you want your footwear to be where you left it. By rule, visitors and patients have to remove their footwear before entering the ward.

Sion Hospital
The sign outside Sion Hospital Emergency ward asking visitors to remove their footwear before entering the ward

A lady has been appointed by the Medical Social Worker (MSW) department at the hospital to watch over footwear outside the ward. MSW department employs few under-privileged patients at the hospital for performing few services as a means for their livelihood and she is allowed to accept money if patients voluntarily pay her.

However, a different story unfolds outside the ward. The woman named Poornima, who was admitted to the hospital as a burns victim in the past, now continues to stay at the hospital and asks, orders, yells and forces patients and visitors to pay for the footwear. The surprising part is that hospital authorities claim innocence regarding the matter.

Poornima, who looks after the footwear outside Sion Hospital emergency ward

Sion hospital handles over a thousand cases in its EMS ward daily. All emergency cases from both Express Highways are rushed to this facility. Apart from road accidents, the BMC-run hospital also sees railway accident victims. The hospital has a board placed outside the EMS ward requesting patients and visitors to place footwear on stands near the entrance of the ward.

“Poornima is authorised to accept money from patients who voluntarily pay her,” said a senior official with the MSW department. “We are unaware that she forces patients to pay compulsorily. The hospital management has no rule that says that the patient has to pay for this service.”

According to sources, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has no hand in getting such helpers. The hospital’s internal management takes care of such hirings. It is an initiative to help poor patients earn their livelihood by performing a few services at the hospital premises.

Poornima, on the other hand, is misusing the responsibility given to her. In total disregard of the fact that relatives and visitors are often under stress because of an emergency situation, she keeps on demanding money from them. If someone lacks change to pay her, she refuses to let that person collect their footwear until they have paid her.

When our reporter visited the hospital, he was witness to Poornima’s yelling at relatives of a patient. When the reporter asked people about the behavior, several patients admitted that they were forced to pay.

Tasneema Shaikh, a relative of a patient, said, “My brother was brought here after he fell off his bike. He was bleeding and we were in a hurry to get the registration papers made. When we stepped out of the EMS ward, there was a lady who started yelling at us for not paying her.

We told her that we did not have the required change and that we would pay her once the formalities were done, she began shouting at us for giving excuses and demanded that we pay her first and then take our footwear.”

When MiD DAY contacted the Dean of Sion Hospital, Dr Suleiman Merchant, he was surprised to hear of such a happening at the hospital. “If the MSW department has appointed her, she is supposed to perform her duty without demanding any charges,” he said. “It is wrong on her part to trouble patients who arrive at the emergency ward to shell out money for following hospital rules and leaving their footwear outside the ward. I shall immediately contact the concerned authorities and ensure that this practice is no longer continued.” 

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