From a rusty bed on which she lay in one of the wards of Lal Ded Hospital, Shaheena Altaf has been pleading with her mother and other relatives who surround her to get her help. She is in labour pain and though her mother has been asking for help from the doctors waking by, no one has time to listen to her entreaty.
Some distance away another woman gets the same treatment from the doctors in the ward and it is only adding to the misery of patients and people with them, not knowing what will become of the patients. On top of this the patients admitted in the hospital have to deal with other problems like lack of medicine, perpetually busy operation theatres and host of other issues.
Shameema, an attendant, says her daughter was in the labour room, but she had to wait for surgery as the theatre was busy. “Doctors are only telling us to wait. They have kept us waiting since two days. We are scared as we have seen a lot of patients here losing their unborn children. This also leads to fights between patients, attendants, and doctors,” she said.
Another patient, Shafiya from Anantnag, says doctors made her to wait as they were conducting surgeries of other patients. “If I cannot deliver a baby on time, there will be a lot of problems. I may lose my child. I cannot afford to lose my baby. I am very scared, as I have seen due to delays patients are facing problems,” she says. “Even some of the patients quarreled with the doctors and left the hospital. There are other operation theatres in the adjacent building of this hospital. They should be made functional as our lives are at risk.”
A senior official, a lady, of the hospital says the administration intended to make Lal Ded a model hospital.
“There are a lot of problems here. There is a huge rush of patients. Currently, more than 80 surgeries are carried out at this maternity hospital on a daily basis. But the new operation theatres are still closed,” she says. The administration of the Lal Ded hospital is yet to make the four new operation theatres functional. Consequently, the patients have to wait for 16 to 48 hours for emergency surgeries, even as three years have passed since the construction of the new building was started.
The purpose of the new building, made operational in 2014, was to cater to the huge rush of patients. The old building of the hospital has a single labour room with six operation theatres, which have to cater to more than 80 patients a day.
The medical superintendent of the hospital, Dr Nazir Malik, says the theatres were not made functional due to some issues. “There were some issues that have now been taken care of. The theatres would be made functional within a few days,” he said. “The theatres are almost complete. There were some deficiencies.”
Hospital also doesn’t have a laboratory for its out-patients. Most of the OPD Serology tests such as Hepatitis B and C are not done at the hospital. “We come here from far flung areas, but we get disappointed on being asked to conduct the tests outside at unaffordable rates,” says Nazir Ahmad, a resident of Anantnag.
Khalida, 55, whose daughter is in the isolation room on the second floor of the old building, said she had to go to a private laboratory for testing her daughter’s blood samples. “They charged a lot of money, but the doctors had said it was needed. So, I got it done,” she says.
Senior official at the hospital says they were not supposed to do OPD Serology tests.
“If administration allows us, we are capable of doing these tests. There are no reagents available for these tests here. These tests are very important and should be done here,” a senior official says. The officials say they have merged the roles of serology and blood bank departments.
“The tests which come under OPD Serology are being done within the blood bank department. But we should have a particular Microbiology lab here like other few government hospitals,” says an official.
However, a doctor at the hospital says it was troublesome to diagnose ailments without proper laboratory facilities.
“Patients blame us if we tell them that tests are to be done from other hospitals. But we cannot do anything about it,” a doctor said, pleading anonymity. In reaction Dr Nazir Malik, says, “We are thinking about starting a microbiology lab here. There were some issues that have now been taken care of.”
A less noticed maternity care problem is how pregnant and labouring women are treated in the hospital setting. In a tiny room, the hospital had forced three or four pregnant women to share a bed. Arifa’s feet touching the head of another woman, who was lying on the same bed. The shrieks of one meet the cries of the other. Five hours have passed since Arifa came there. Her mother Hamida sits near the door of the ward, her eyes searching for a nurse. She asks a nurse. Can you please see the condition of my daughter? She has been here for five hours.” “The delivery room is already occupied by three patients,” the nurse replies, “Wait for an hour.”
Lal Ded Memorial Hospital is one of the busiest hospitals of the valley that usually witnesses a heavy footfall of patients. Many like Shaheena who come from different villages of the valley have to face many difficulties at the hospitals due to lack of facilities and proper arrangements. Besides that, the ill-treatment of patients by doctors makes their experience of the hospital all the more sore.