SRINAGAR: It is 2 in the afternoon. Masooma Ali, an attendant, is roaming the causality area of the SMHS Hospital with a form in her hand, looking for the blood bank.
She searches the entire area, runs upstairs to the trauma ward, and lands outside the Out-Patients Department, where a crowd of people is waiting for their turn to visit the doctors.
The 43-year-old is desperate to get the blood for her husband, who suffers chronic kidney failure with the medicos calling for his immediate dialysis. Without having blood-for-infusion, his low hemoglobin count would not allow the doctors to go ahead with the procedure; a delay in getting the blood to him can cost him his life.
But despite her desperation, Masooma is not able to find her way to the blood bank and help her husband. For help, she turns to the people who are as uninformed as she is.
“It is outside the old gate of the hospital, opposite to the medical stores,” they tell her.
Masooma follows the instructions, but only to discover that the blood bank has been relocated to somewhere inside the main building of the hospital.
Distressed, frustrated Masooma again turns to the commoners for help.
“Where has the blood bank been shifted to? Where exactly do I have to go?” she asks anyone she sees.
But most of them don’t have the answer she is looking for.
Finally, a nursing orderly tells hers to go to the Professors’ Lane upstairs. “It’s opposite to the operation theatre,” she is told.
Upstairs, a paper-turned-signboard posted on the wall guides Masooma towards the blood bank. She completes the formalities, and is assured that the blood would be taken to the patient in about an hour. She rushes downstairs to her husband with the information, but the doctor has another task for her: she is required to get some tests done in the F-block of the hospital.
Yet again, there are there are no signboards or posters to indicate the route to the F Block. And she follows the hearsay to reach the facility housed in a flood-damaged, untidy building.
The people’s knowledge about the facility’s location only helps her to reach the Anti Rabies Clinic in the block’s ground floor. The staff there redirects her to the first floor.
A few hours later, the doctor tells Masooma to go to the Microbiology department to get a container for her patient’s urine culture. And she helplessly starts looking for it in every possible corner of the hospital building.
The commoners guide her towards the Government Medical College building located outside the hospital.
And she laments: “My family has gone to Delhi. I am alone here to take care of my husband who fell ill suddenly on the last night. I am literally struggling here. I feel I am in a no man’s land, where you have to rely on hearsay and guesswork.
“My ailing husband could feel my pain whenever I get a little time to sit with him, but the administration is so callous. Can’t they understand how difficult it is for a common person who doesn’t know the hospital well enough to manage things?”
“This is like a maze in which you get lost every time you attempt to each anywhere. I am surprised how these age-old government hospitals can be without signboards!”
An orderly at the medical superintendent’s office says has to guide around 50 to 60 patients or attendants a day.
“Sometimes I get fed up, but then I realise it’s not their fault. Usually, one doesn’t know where he has come from and where he has to reach.”
The struggle is same for the people visiting other GMC-associated hospitals including Lal Ded, Bones and Joints, Chest and Diseases hospitals. All the hospitals are without signboards.
At Lal Ded Hospital, every room has a numerical identity, which the patients and attendants find very difficult to follow. The visitors say they usually lose their way in the hospital.
The children’s hospital has caricatures plastered on every wall but no signboards to identify a particular facility.
A post graduate doctor at Lal Ded Hospital said: “We had a programme once in the children’s hospital, and I needed to go to the auditorium. I roamed the entire hospital but couldn’t find the auditorium. Finally, I returned to the Lal Ded Hospital without attending the event.”
Principal GMC, Srinagar, Dr Kaiser Ahmad agrees that the absence of signboards causes inconvenience to visitors in the hospital.
“We have placed order for the signboards. The people will longer have to face inconvenience in the government hospitals. It is an issue in hospitals and we will soon resolve it,” he says.