Each room at the shelter has 48 beds but every night over 150 men cram into each of the two rooms. The two rooms meant for women also get filled.

Hyd health files Facilities for Niloufer Hospital visitors hardly adequate
news Health Care Thursday, August 23, 2018 - 10:50

On a hot March afternoon in 2017, Rathod Ravi was taking a nap under a tree in front of Niloufer Hospital in Hyderabad when a branch broke and fell on him waking him up with a bruised head. Fearing another volley of broken branches, Ravi’s wife Rani had to hold their 4-year-old daughter close and cover the sleeping child with a blanket despite the afternoon heat.

The family had come to the hospital from Sanga Reddy district as their second born 3-year-old daughter suffers from a heart condition. The 50 odd people resting under the tree were momentarily concerned for Ravi, but the 30-year-old auto driver did not sustain any grievous injury. His 24-year-old wife looked up at the tree, their only source of shade from Hyderabad’s scorching sun, and said, “Thank god the branch did not fall on my daughter.”

Ravi and family were among hundreds, forced to stay within the hospital premises for months together for treatment, who used to set up camp at any available spot around the hospital.

That was until the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) set up a shelter for these families right next to the hospital in January 2018 at an estimated cost of Rs 2.6 crore. The hospital grounds that used to accommodate the families have now been converted into a park for children and trees have been planted as part of the hospital’s Haritha Haram drive.

The shelter is housed in a three-storey building with four rooms (two for men and two for women) on each floor with two bathrooms. But only one floor is operational and the rest are under construction. Each room has 48 beds but every night over 150 men cram into each of the two rooms. The two rooms meant for women also get filled. Those who can’t find beds sleep on the floors or the corridors or in the ground floor parking.

“Most of the families that stay here are very poor and often have to stay here for months. The situation is a little better than it used to be a year ago. It’s not fancy but at least people don’t have to live on the streets for months,” said Mohammad Ali, the supervisor of the shelter, which is operated by the All India Payam-e-Insaniyat Forum.

“The pace of construction of the building is slow, work happens only when the funds are available. GHMC has provided some funds but it is not enough, the rest is being arranged by the forum through donations. It takes close to Rs 1 lakh to run the place every month, for which we depend on donations,” he added.

Asma Begum from Gulbarga, Karnataka has been staying at the shelter for four months. A fortnight ago, she gave birth to her third child but complications arose after she tore the C-section stitches while washing clothes.

“There is no one to help me here, my mother-in-law is taking care of my two school-going children,” says Asma, who was referred to Niloufer Hospital after her doctor in Gulbarga declared that there was not much hope of her surviving her third pregnancy.

“The doctor wrote my case off, said I won’t survive. I came to Niloufer but gave birth to my child at Gandhi Hospital. Now I live here at the shelter as I don’t have money to go anywhere else,” she says.

For the most part of the day, Asma stays alone at the shelter with her child, as her husband is out searching for work.

“The NGO people help fund our medical bills… some scans and medicines are not available at the hospital. I will leave when the doctors ask me to,” she adds.

“People get referred to Niloufer only in the last stage, when there is very little chance of survival. Private hospitals calculate their risk benefits and if there is more risk they refer them to Niloufer as they don’t want to spoil their name,” said Srinivas Kalyani, professor and head of the emergency department at Niloufer. “We receive over 1,200 patients a day and we have 950 beds. Even if we increase the bed capacity the number of people visiting will increase proportionally,” he added.

Many who don’t find accommodation at the shelter live in the ground floor parking lot of the shelter. Most are family members accompanying the child or mother admitted to the hospital. The hospital issues a visitor pass that grants entry three times a day; if more entries are needed one has to bribe the security guard for rates as low as Rs 20.

For families staying in the hospital premises, access to clean drinking water is hard to come by. Drinking water, priced at Rs 5 per litre at the nearby pay-and-use toilet facility, is filled in used plastic PET bottles.

“Free water is available at the shelter and a little further down the road,” says B Sujatha from Medak who has been staying in the parking lot of the shelter with her child. “My first child is admitted in the hospital, my mother and I take turns to be with the child,” she adds.

But what bothers Sujatha more than the money she has to spend on water is the lack of access to a clean toilet. “There are no toilets for visitors at the hospital, the ones inside are so dirty it makes me want to puke.”

There are just two toilets available for all the visitors staying at the hospital – one at the shelter and the other a pay-and-use toilet outside the hospital that closes at 10 pm.

The shelter used to have free public toilets but soon started charging a fee as it required regular cleaning.

“We kept the toilet free to use for the first two months, but then it got too dirty so we started charging a small fee of Rs 5 and Rs 10. We can’t levy the fee on everyone as most of the people who stay here don’t have any money. We often have to fund their medical bills,” said Mohammad Ali.

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