SRINAGAR: It is complete chaos outside the Out Patient Department (OPD) of the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) on Sunday. Scores of patients accompanied with their attendants have nowhere to go.
Many attendants can be seen outside the OPD building taking patients out of vehicles and then carrying them on their backs, as there are no wheel chairs available. Some patients scream, some groan as they are ferried on the backs of their porters.
Looking around for a wheel chair or stretcher, Rasheed Ahmad from Sonawari spots a stretcher, which has blood stains visible on it, to carry his ailing father to the cardiology room of the OPD. He finds it difficult to push the stretcher by himself, especially up the steps, as there is no ramp connecting the road to the narrow cemented walkway at the entrance of the building. An onlooker comes forward to help, and lifts the front of the stretcher, helping Ahmad put the stretcher on the walkway.
As Ahmad pushes the stretcher forward, he can hardly find space to move. The main entrance to the OPD is blocked with construction material spread all over. The remaining space is crammed with patients and their attendants, all squeezed into the narrow stretch of the walkway.
Inside the OPD, it is like a mob let loose. A noise, like the buzz of bees, is constant, with bursts of loud shouting and talking. The attendants scramble and jostle to acquire entry cards. Then they set about finding the chambers of doctors.
In the absence of any signboards, the patients and their attendants make rounds of the maze of paths within the OPD building. Some of them reach the same spot where they started from.
“I had to show my mother to an oncologist,” narrates Sameer Ahmad, who has come from south Kashmir’s Shopian district. “I was just going round in circles. It is so difficult to find the doctor’s chamber as there are no signs or directions to guide us. We asked people but they pointed to us the wrong direction. We managed to reach the doctor after 20 minutes of looking for his chamber. It was right before us but we could not locate it. The problem here is the huge rush of people as much as the confusing design of the corridors in the building.”
Room numbers have been written in small letters outside the wide doors that lead to chambers of doctors. They are scarcely visible. Even for those able to see them, they offer no information beyond the number. Which doctor sits in the room, of what department, there is no mention.
Outside the chambers of doctors, patients and their attendants stand crowded in a small space. It is suffocating. The patients who are on stretchers can hardly find space to enter. Similar is the situation of the patients on wheel chairs.
“My son is suffering from a kidney disease. He can’t walk. We brought him here on a stretcher. But there is no space to move in the corridors, nor outside the doctor’s chamber. The pushing and shoving from people makes the patients uneasy. The people cannot be blamed; there is no space at all. It is like a flock of sheep have been crammed inside a shed,” says Iqbal Khan, a resident of Srinagar.
Near the chamber of the OPD cardiologist, an old woman, Rahti Begum, was repeatedly asking her daughter Fatima to take her to the toilet. The daughter was asking her mother to wait. “She cannot walk. There was no wheel chair to carry her. It was so difficult to bring her here through the huge rush,” Fatima said. “We could not find the toilet even after looking for it everywhere. The rush of people makes it so difficult to move. It is better to wait for our turn to see the doctor. Then we can get out of here.”
There are two bathrooms in the OPD, one for men and the other for women, but they are too far away from the doctors’ chambers. There are no signboards to tell where they are.
The doctors at the OPD, two or three in number, have to deal with hundreds of patients each day. “We try our best to see every patient, but the rush is so much that we have to struggle to keep people out of our chambers,” a doctor at the OPD said. “Sometimes brawls break out. It is tough work here.”
Medical Superintendent of SKIMS Soura, Syed Amin Tabish, said that due to the expansion of the OPD, some deficiencies have not yet been sorted out.
“The present OPD was designed for 1,000 patients some 35 years ago. In those days, the OPD would register only 15 patients per day. Now the population has grown and we receive two-and-a-half thousand to three-thousand patients every day,” Tabish said.
“And with each patient there are three or more attendants. It comes to more than eight-thousand persons visiting the OPD every day,” he added.
He said that signs have not been put up as a new OPD building is being readied. “We do not want to waste money and time on the sign boards. The new building will be completed in six months. It will have proper signboards,” Tabish said.
Tabish said that deficiencies in the hospital were not deliberate. He denied that there was a shortage of trolleys and wheel chairs. When told of the situation at the OPD, he said he would look into the matter.
“We have more than 100 trolleys and wheel chairs there. I think it is not a problem,” Tabish said.
He said that SKIMS was working hard for the welfare of people. “We have opened the ticket counters at 8am. Earlier, people had to form long queues and it would take them one-and-a-half hour to get the ticket. But now the whole process takes 15 minutes,” Tabish said.