What is the value of human life in India? A New York Times or Washington Post dedicates its front page reporting what India’s newspapers hides in near its advertisements. 23 people dying after a bus fell into a gorge in Himachal Pradesh last week was somewhere in the sixth or seventh page. I realized the same attitude even in government run hospitals when I happened to visit one recently in the western Indian state of Gujarat.
Hundreds of patients go through backbreaking and tiresome procedures to get a health check-up done at one of the government run hospitals. And it extends several times a day and even spills over to weeks altogether for any hapless patient.
Getting treated at ‘Transit OPD’ Sola Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad could be any patient’s nightmare. The building located on SG Road adjacent to famed Gujarat High Court looks swankier from outside, but what awaits you inside is poor management of men, resources and procedures.
The day starts at 8 o’clock in the morning with registration of fresh cases and ‘stamping fresh dates’ on registered cases. Serpentine queues await you at the reception of transit OPD right under the entrance porch. Not only these queues obstruct entry and exit to the premises, but give you a hint about your grueling day ahead. An agonizing wait of 30-45 minutes would lead you to the reception desk. The details, barely audible, were asked by a person – whose body language hints that he himself is on a ventilator - on the other side of the window. This is your first and last exposure to e-governance zealously implemented by Government of Gujarat.
Hugely relieved and satisfied with your conquest, the euphoria fizzles out when you reach the doctor’s consulting room. There are scores of patients sitting on chairs, standing, squatting on the floor outside the consulting rooms. People with weathered and blank faces eagerly wait for their turn. I realized here that you must be a patient with lot of patience, grit and determination to wait endlessly to get diagnosed by doctor on the job. There are so many men and women in the corridors that you actually stumble upon not less than ten persons before you find your consulting room. If you are coming for consultation a second time and ill-fated to forget to stamp your case papers – you are in trouble. Snakes and Ladders game is here to haunt you which tumble you at the reception counter!! Your second round of time lag begins while patients in front of you tossed like dice at the reception window. Déjà vu – Are you a patient or a dice?
What you would least expect at hospital is rough behavior and indifference by the para-medical staff. Hospital staff’s attitude adds to your misery besides your ailments. You curse your fate to make you go through a living hell.
Initial diagnosis by the doctor on duty may lead you to the pathology laboratory with its own pathological problems. It’s a messy place with commotion galore. There are men and women straining their necks from doors and two small cubicle windows to examine sample collection procedure. Around five para-medics juggle their duties to take samples, make entries and instruct patients what to do next.
A frustrating wait pumps up adrenaline rush in a young man who showers obscenities at para-medics. This leads to an eye for an eye scuffle in the laboratory. “Ame Gaalo Khava Aiyaan Kaam Kariye Chhiye (Do we work here to get these cuss words?),” thunders main lab attendant and pushes the rabble-rouser young patient out of the room. The young man, though an important one, but a patient himself declares an all-out war. He throws a challenge at the grumpy attendant to step outside and let everybody know who really is a brawny guy!! Intervention of security staff finally pacifies raw nerves on both sides. Entertainment comes here free, but painfully at someone else’s expense.
Now you are informed by the staff to collect your reports at 4 o’clock in the evening. Similar commotion greets you again. You heave a sigh of relief or tears might roll down your cheeks with joy of looking at a sheaf of papers. Believe me, you haven’t come across this feeling in ages.
But all this is momentarily sublime. These pathology reports must be furnished for final consultations. A chill passes down through your spine about the idea of going through same tribulations. And if you are ill-fated you must have to go through these tribulations many times in coming days till you regain your health. After all, keeping yourself fit and healthy is a serious business.
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