Orthopaedic OPD on third floor, no lifts; hospitals couldn't care less

Separate counters for senior citizens do not operate because of staff shortages

Aravind Lhasa, 72, has been keeping ill for the past 10 years. Joint pains in all his limbs hamper work as security guard, a job he still does on and off.  
Lhasa says it is not just the work that bothers him; his experience with hospitals is just as bad.

“Their architecture is very insensitive to the elderly. Ramps are there only to reach the ground floor, for the rest one has to climb up. Even the orthopaedic OPDs (outpatient departments)  are on third  or fourth floor in many hospitals,” he said.

Some big hospitals such as All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Safdarjung and Lok Nayak have lifts. But other multi-storey hospitals do not have them.

This insensitivity is part of hospital culture in Delhi on other counts as well. Every government hospital has a separate window for senior citizens at the OPD card counter, the pharmacy and other places where money changes hands. But these separate counters hardly ever function, primarily due to shortage of staff.

“Our pharmacy has eight windows, but there are only four pharmacists. We give preference to pregnant women. The window for senior citizens is usually closed,” says a staff member at the  pharmacy of Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital in east Delhi.

Counting on his experience at several Delhi hospitals, he says the windows for the elderly hardly open.

The department of geriatrics, which deals with medical problems particular to old people, exists only in teaching colleges. Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital and Maulana Azad Medical College under Delhi government; and AIIMS, Safdarjung and Ram Manohar Lohia run by the Central government are the only ones with this department.

“There is an increasing aging population in Delhi. Many old couples stay alone due to the changing nature of urban lifestyle and the ambitions of their children,” says Dr Ashish Goel from GTB Hospital’s geriatrics department. This leads to visits to hospitals being delayed. “

One needs an entire system to deal with this, including an approach within medical circles to treat the elderly differently than the others,” he says.

Another doctor adds that he came across a 70-year-old patient who had been given seven medicines for an ailment.

“Now, that is all right for a person aged 50-55. But for someone over 60, one should check the medical history of the patient thoroughly and then prescribe medicines even for mild ailments. In this case, the man developed bad acidity and had to be admitted in the hospital for four days,” he says.

Dr Goel says training and awareness needs to be stepped up.

The Delhi government has been running special clinics for people above 60 on Sundays from 10.00 am to noon in nine hospitals - Lok Nayak, GTB, Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Aruna Asaf Ali, Sanjay Gandhi Memorial, Dr Joshi Memorial, Babu Jagjivan Ram, Rao Tula Ram Memorial and Lal Bahadur Shastri. The clinics provide services under medicine, surgery, orthopaedics, gynaecology, ENT and opthalmology, supported by pathological tests and radiological diagnostic facilities.

MUNICIPALHELP

* A monthly pension of Rs 1,000 per person is given to 1,90,400 senior
citizens across the city
*  MCD provides rebate of 20 to 30 per cent in house tax to persons above 60 years of age on a single property in their name
* There are recreational centres with facilities like TV, newspapers and
magazines where senior citizens can pass time reading or playing indoor games

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