SRINAGAR: Rihana, a pregnant lady from south Kashmir is admitted in Kashmir’s premier maternity hospital for the past four days, awaiting labour pain. The stay is proving to be torturous at a time when she requires utmost care.
“Going to the washroom is the most horrible thing. I practically bury my nose in chest to suppress the stench with my body odour. One cannot even sit comfortably on the commode,” Rihana said. “What can we do, we have nowhere to go,” she said.
This sordid state of affairs exists in every ward of the spacious hospital, which is the birthplace of the highest number of children in Kashmir. The pungent smell of un-flushed latrines is repulsive but the expecting women and those with gynaecological issues are compelled to use them. Even apart from the washrooms, the situation is one of corners and crevices being occupied by cobwebs and insects.
The patients, their attendants and hordes of visitors only add to the mess. They throw their sanitary napkins in the washrooms, sometimes even attempting to dump them in the commodes. The water quality in the hospital is awful, especially when it rains. The muddy water even becomes a main cause of urinary tract infection for the vulnerable women here.
The situation is not different in the Out Patients Department (OPD). Spitting on walls or people blowing their noses in the open is routine. Some women stealthily change diapers of newborns and throw the refuse in a corner. Throwing away fruit peels is quite a custom outside the testing laboratories.
For men, there are no designated washrooms. Those who hesitate to use the washrooms meant for ladies relieve themselves again the back wall of the hospital complex. Officials say that this-most visited maternity hospital with a daily intake of 150 indoor patients and around one thousand outdoor patients requires an army of sweepers for cleaning.
However, on the rolls, there are only 60 sweepers and only 8 of them are doing their assigned job. The others are into midwifery or working as nursing orderlies or even handling desks in the offices.
Some of the areas of the hospital have been outsourced for cleaning. About 50 contractual employees who are working on a salary of Rs 2,500 are looking after about 163 rooms- 50 rooms on the ground floor, 52 rooms on the first floor, 40 on the second and 21 rooms in the new building, which includes various departments of blood bank, wards and a general operation theatre. Interestingly, the hospital administration has no count of the rooms. This reporter had to do the counting herself! And perhaps this room-count was done for the first time in the history of the hospital.
On the face of it, the hospital has a schedule for cleaning but it is observed more in breach due to lack of manpower and wherewithal. The hospital has no Lysol for cleaning the floor, no Collin for cleaning the windowpanes, no harpic cleaner for washing the toilets and no soaps for scrubbing and washing.
Says a contractual sweeper, on condition of anonymity, “What will we tell you? Aas che thuake seeth haspatal saaf karaan (We are cleaning the hospital with our spit), we have no stock available. We don’t use any germicides, phenyl or Collin here. So how does one expect that the hospital will be clean? We don’t even get soap.”
“The chart on the wall (about the cleaning schedule) is just to hoodwink people about the routine of cleanliness here, which actually is not followed. Our contractor doesn’t give us anything,” said another sweeper. Recently, 15 contractual sweepers left the job after they were not paid their dues.
Deputy Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Dr Farah Shafi said, “It is the job of the contractor to see what is going wrong in the hospital as far as the sanitation is concerned. The contractor just finds a way of getting tenders in the government hospital and then they don’t work as per the laid out conditions. We are not happy with the contractor’s job.”
Dr Shafi justified assigning clerical work to permanent sweepers of the hospital. “ Many of our sweepers retired. We thought it’s better to give the residual sweepers the charge of nursing orderlies. They are comfortable with the assignment,” she said.