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Patients' moms clean hospital toilets

Nivedita Niranjankumar, Bangalore, May 3, 2013, DHNS : 2:29 IST
It’s 12.30 pm. A two-and-a-half-year-old boy is being fed by his mother at the Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology’s children’s ward. He suffers from leukaemia.

At 6 pm, he lies helpless with no one to take care of him. Sitamma (name changed), his mother, is busy cleaning the hospital toilets. “We do this every day,” she says, referring to parents of other patients admitted to the hospital.

That they are not alone in this is no consolation for her or the others who are left helpless by callous hospital authorities whose apathy leaves the six toilets in the ward – three each on the ground and the first floor – in a bad state.

Parents of all the patients at the children’s ward have been instructed to clean the toilets, which is the duty of the hospital. This shocking practice, however, does not raise any eyebrows in the hospital.

“They are keeping the toilets clean for their own sake. Otherwise, their children will die of infection. It is for their benefit,” Dr L Appaji, Professor and Head of Department, Paediatric Oncology, says.

Every evening, the sight at the hospital is unrivalled, with many crying children left unattended. Sitamma and others have devised a roster system charting out shifts for cleaning.

“There are three toilets on the upper floor and I clean all of them when it’s my turn,” Sitamma says. There are 70 children in the Kapoor Ward of the hospital and the mothers of these children are permitted to stay with them.

Haseena Begum (name changed), another parent, is not as calm as Sitamma. “Besides taking care of my two-year-old daughter, I have to clean toilets,” she quips. Pointing out that there is no easy way out of it, she says the doctors inspect the toilets at night. “We are scolded if they are dirty.”

Their misery, she says, does not end there. They have also been instructed to clean the ward. “We sweep and swab the ward every day. The maids say that since we live here we are supposed to do it,” Lakshmi (name changed), the mother of a 13-year-old girl, says.

“The ayah cleans the toilet only in the morning. By evening, the toilet is very dirty and filled with patients’ vomit. My mother has to scrub all of it clean. It is sometimes so dirty that one can’t even stand there,” a patient said, adding that her mother does not like doing it.

Lakshmi says they have been provided with rubber gloves “but cleaning so many dirty toilets is not an easy task.” The ward has two ayahs who do morning and evening shifts every day and yet the parents are, almost forcefully, made to do the cleaning.

‘How much can we do?’

Ask Appaji and he insists that the parents had been asked to just clean the toilet after use and denied they clean all the toilets. “We have not imposed this on anybody,” he says.

But he also concedes: “How much can the hospital employees clean? If they (parents) don’t clean the place, their own children will die of infection.”

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