The unhygienic state of SMHS Hospital

SRINAGAR: The dearth of staff coupled with inefficient human resource management at the Valley’s premier SMHS hospital is taking a heavy toll on the health and hygiene of thousands of patients thronging the health facility every day. Authorities admit that a staff crunch is the main cause for the low-standard cleanliness at the sprawling hospital, spread over more than 5 hectares (40 kanals) of land.
Informed sources said that the biggest tertiary care hospital in the city has only 80 sweepers for 20 wards, a spacious blood bank, corridors, washrooms, doctor’s rooms, administrative block and a multitude of lanes and by-lanes. Three-fourths of the sweepers are deployed to take care of wards alone.
The cleanliness for the Casualty and Out Patients Department (OPD) has been outsourced where around twenty sweepers are managing the highest footfall in the hospital. “The hospital premises are filled with dirt and rubbish. As soon as one enters the main gate, peels of fruit and paper is seen littered everywhere,” Muhammad Rafiq, a north Kashmir resident who had come to see a relative admitted in the hospital, said.
“Being noisy can be an attribute of the OPD but there are people seen smoking and nobody admonishes them,” Rafiq said. There are no signboards to warn people against smoking at the public place, especially the hospital.
Worse, the backyard of the hospital is a real junkyard, a breeding place for stray dogs and mosquitoes. Discarded iron rods, furniture and medical equipment have been piled up in a vast space. The junk swelled manifold after the devastating 2014 floods, which also submerged a large part of the hospital.
The inside of the hospital is even worse.  Used wads of cotton and packs of syringes and needles lie scattered, seldom being dumped in designated dustbins. Each corner of the ward is dusty, walls flaky and window panes are smeared with bird droppings. The window glasses are choked with dust. The pungent smell emanating from washrooms is a constant in every ward.
Sweepers are supposed to clean the floors thrice a day. However, in practice, the ritual is performed in the morning alone, an hour or a half before the doctors take a round of the wards. At that time, the entry and exit of patients’ attendants is barred. Once the doctors leave the wards, the situation goes back to square one until the ritual re-starts the next morning. “The brooms and mops disappear as soon as the doctors exit the wards,” Ishaq Ahmad, another attendant of a patient told Kashmir Reader.
A Registrar working with the hospital admitted that the sanitary situation is below par. “The sweepers clean the wards in the morning, mostly when the doctors’ round is on. They are seldom punctual and never repeat the exercise twice in a day. There is no question of finding sweepers on duty during night hours,” he said.
Interestingly, the hospital is done up every time when a minister or a top official schedules a visit. After the visit is over, the hospital returns to its unhygienic state.
Sanitary Jamadar Ghulam Ahmad has no qualms in admitting the sordid state of affairs at the hospital. “We have a shortage of sweepers in the hospital. Time and again we have asked the authorities to recruit new people as it is difficult to maintain such a huge hospital with such a small staff. But nothings happens,” he rued.
He said the last recruitment of sweepers was made in the year 2011: “If the authorities are complaining about the sanitation, let them enhance the staff and then expect good results.”

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