Public health at risk in unhygienic hospitals

Public health at  risk in unhygienic hospitals

For the not-so-privileged, the city’s government hospitals remain the only option for affordable healthcare. But they would want these places to be hygienic, clean, well-maintained and free of germs and garbage. Here’s a reality check to see whether this is actually the case.

First, the toilets. One need not look out for a board to get directions to the washroom. Thanks to the stench from the poorly kept toilets, you could easily figure a way to the place. If in some hospitals, thepatients complain of clogged drains, in some others, toilet doors have no latches at all!

At the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) hospitals, the toilets appear clean, but out-patients have a sad story to tell. Veena, a visitor who had come with her nine-month old child for a consultation at the Rajajinagar hospital, had this to say: “There are three toilets here. It is common for both men and women. I have seen a few come for house keeping in the morning. Just minutes after that, it gets dirty.” Three washrooms were recently renovated, but two still don’t have locks.

But Veena, who had been visiting the hospital for the last five years, did not want to put the blame entirely on the hospital. “When people do not even flush before getting out, why should we point fingers at the hospital authorities,” she asks. “For most people, it does not matter what the others go through.”

People who spoke to Deccan Herald at the Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital had similar grievances. “We cannot use toilets inside. They are so dirty that we come out and use the pay and use ones,” says Lavanya, whose husband was an in-patient.

Hygiene ought to be of utmost importance in centres catering to pregnant women. But Nagendra, whose wife recently delivered a baby at the Bowring Hospital, had a different tale to narrate. “My wife had the worst experience. She just delivered a child and was left with no choice but to use the unhygienic toilet here. Even a lay man like me can understand how suseptible a woman is to infections in that phase of her life,” he says.
Ramya, a college student who boards a bus from Majestic, is convinced that unless the civic authorities maintain the public utilities hygienically, public health would suffer. She points to the ‘pay and use’ toilets and quips, “We cannot even go close by. Forget using it.” 

For many, cleanliness at the hospitals come for a price. Nagalakshmi (name changed) who had just delivered a child at the Vani Vilas Hospital here learnt it the hard way. From changing bed spreads to cleaning the child, she and her husband had to allegedly bribe the concerned staff for every little thing. “If we do not tell them and pay a certain amount, then they do not even change the bed spreads,” she complains.

But public health and hygiene is not the responsibility of the hospitals alone. “Just stand here for five minutes and you can see at least ten people spit on these walls,” points out Manoj (name changed), a security person at the Rajajinagar ESIC Hospital. “People just do not seem to have basic civic sense. Someone has to stand here all long the day to keep an eye. Imagine the spread of germs if the person is infected,” he notes.   

One will have to take care not to touch the hospital walls. For the ugly marks made by people spitting paan could be infectious. As doctors explain, this goes beyond just cleanliness and civic sense.

The infected also put others at equal risk of getting infected by doing so. Dr Prabhu Das, Head of Department, TB and Chest diseases explains that while hygiene and health consciousness are important, the social aspects need more attention. “Even as we battle TB, advising people to take precautions to avoid an outbreak also becomes important,” he says.

“We have to even teach a few basic manners such as to keep their mouths closed with towels and not spit in the open.” However, the specialist is quick to add that the patient’s compliance is what matters.

Hospitals see a lot of patients walk in and walk out. Managing them is a big challenge. “There is crowding in the rooms even as other people are examined. This ups the chances of the ones tested positive spreading the infection. Since most of our patients work in industries such as garments and mining, the chances of them contracting chest problems is even higher,” he explains.

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