Over the last few months, we have all been watching a steady increase in the awareness of keeping our country clean. The Swachh Bharat campaign and the subsequent photo-ops by various ministers trying to out-do each other appeared on all our front pages, sadly in some cases, bringing the dirt with them to pour onto the streets. I really could write volumes on what I thought of such deliberate acts by ministers to be relevant but the truth is I do wish to talk on an aspect of our lives that desperately needs to be given priority as far as cleanliness is concerned.
I am referring to the state of hospitals in India. Look beyond the plush tertiary health care centres for a moment. The vast majority of patients (> 85 %) in this country do not have access – either financially or just geographically - to them, after all. India, by and large, walks into primary and secondary health care centres when they have a cold, fever, infection or pain. And it is this section which caters to the majority that I feel has been neglected for too long.
If you recall earlier in November 2014, a state-run hospital in Indore called in exterminators to deal with ‘an infestation’. Only this was no minor bug infestation as it turned out. In two days, over 4,000 rats and mice were killed. The pest and fumigation agency noted with shock that there were at least another 10,000 rodents in the hospital and it would take over a month to get rid of all of them.
This was one of the biggest government run hospitals in Madhya Pradesh and included a medical college. They looked after people of all ages, ranging from 1 day old to a hundred years old all within that single campus which HAS (the extermination is still underway as I type this) more rodents than you and I will ever see in our lives.
The sad part is that this is nothing new.
|Image source: here|
Maternity ward shifted outdoors due to construction work.
How is this okay in today's India?
Come into a packed government medical college out-patient department on any day of the week. What do you think you will see? Hundreds and hundreds of patients and their relatives, jostling for space to stand as they wait outside cramped corridors.
There are people groaning in agony and sneezing and coughing all over one another, infecting everyone around them. General wards are usually overflowing, with patients sleeping on the floor after the beds are taken.
Rats, cats, dogs, frogs, monkeys, snakes… these are all animals I have personally seen inside hospitals.
Cleaning the roads is fine… it is the first step towards fulfilling the ‘prevention is better than cure’ concept. But that concept is at least a decade away (optimistically) from fruition. Till then, you need to be able to cure those who are ill without allowing them to share illnesses at the very place they come to be cured.