Telangana Government Hospitals : Do They Really Care?
God forbid, if any family member of any minister or MLA or MP in Telangana falls sick, does the VIP get them admitted to Gandhi Hospital, one of the biggest facilities in Hyderabad. Or if it is the case of a minor, is the child taken to Niloufer Hospital, the biggest children’s hospital in the state capital.
The answer will be No. And more so now, with evidence surfacing that the only medication both hospitals seem to dish out is that of insensitivity, corruption and lack of care. Earlier this month, a video surfaced of a patient bringing his child’s toy cycle to wheel himself inside Gandhi Hospital because the attenders allegedly asked for a bribe of Rs 100 to provide him with a wheelchair.
And now another video has emerged from Niloufer where an infant fitted both with IV fluid and an oxygen cylinder, was being carried by her father in his hands from one block of the hospital to the other on the night of 29 March because there was no stretcher available. “I kept asking them for a stretcher but did not get,” he told a reporter who incidentally happened to be at the hospital and shot the video.
Hyderabad’s government medicare infrastructure seems to have moved into New India only on the calendar, not in reality. Most of the facilities that should usually be provided for free, come with an unofficial rate card. Admittedly, Gandhi Hospital is under strain because against a bed capacity of 1020, it gets close to 3000 to 4000 patients everyday. The Times of India reported how patients who do not manage to get a bed inside the hospital, have no option but to sleep on the footpath in the open in the hospital premises. But even for that a bribe of Rs 50 has to be shelled out.
And how did Gandhi Hospital deal with the issue of corruption? By putting up posters that said ‘Giving and taking bribe is a crime’. Treating the cancer of corruption with band-aid, Telangana government style.
Experts say given the volume of patients each of the government hospitals receive, it is time they invested in processes. In private hospitals for instance, the transport department is a separate entity that takes care of the first point of contact, usually the wheelchairs and stretchers at the entrance to the hospital. The group of ward boys are supervised by a manager who also ensures a debriefing session everyday to check on what went right and what went wrong. All the boys are also trained by a physiotherapist on how to handle patients, especially accident victims or with fractures. If a semi-skilled workforce can be built up in a private hospital, why cannot the same be done equally efficiently by the government using its various skill development programmes.
Health care activists point out that institutionalising of a chalta hai attitude and the confidence that nothing will change with a few surprise visits by a minister has meant the rot that has set in continues. “It begins with the wrong appointments in the form of pliable administrators at the top which are often the result of nepotism and corruption. Schemes like Arogyasri insurance scheme has meant that the state government is busy helping private hospitals fill their coffers at the cost of starving public hospitals,” says Chandana Chakrabarti, Health care expert.
Ironically, on Thursday, when the video from Niloufer hospital surfaced, the Lok Sabha was debating Sustainable Development Goals on the way forward for healthcare in the country. But the debate degenerated into verbal mudslinging between the TMC and BJP members over the state of hospitals in West Bengal.
The Telangana government at the moment is in denial mode, smelling a conspiracy to defame Gandhi Hospital. One of the suggestions mooted is to reduce the number of attendants to be allowed entry with a patient. While some kind of streamlining is indeed required, the ministry also needs to bear in mind that most of the patients come from other Telangana districts, and are invariably accompanied by more than one family member.
Another suggestion in the air is to ban the media from entry inside the hospital. Shoot the messenger and that will, hopefully, end any negative press is the thought. Not that the media is not already barred from entering most hospitals in Telangana. But what the regime does not realise is that with a smartphone in every hand, every common citizen is now a reporter who can shoot the happenings and put it out in the public domain in real time.
May be the government of Telangana ought to follow in the footsteps of one of its collectors. This month, Akunoori Murali, collector of Jayashankar Bhupalapalli district, ensured his daughter Pragathi delivered her first child at the Mulugu government hospital. Murali wanted to lead by example to convey that the government healthcare facility is fully equipped to provide quality treatment.