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On June 27, two babies were born a little after 4 pm, their mothers admitted to two gynaecology emergencies about 15 km apart in the NCR. The newborns — a boy and a girl.
The boy’s mother, 25-year-old Sanwati, delivered her third child in six years, sharing her bed in the gynaecology emergency of a Delhi government hospital with two other women as she went into labour. The girl was Trishala’s, a 29-year-old marketing and advertising professional, first child. She was born in a private hospital in South Delhi in an air-conditioned room with a view of Delhi Metro.
In both wards where the women were taken after their delivery, the newborns were identified by their mothers. That apart, they came screaming into two entirely different worlds.
Sanwati says she is still not used to squeezing into a “crowded bed” till minutes before delivery. “I went to another government hospital for my second child. My first and third were born in this hospital.” The ward she was in had six beds on each side, with at least two women in each bed, in saris or nightdresses. The room had no windows and one fan for every two beds. The experience in the other government hospital was the same, says Sanwati. “All hospitals are just as crowded. This time I went to a few MCD hospitals also to see if the delivery experience could be more private. But the crowd was worse there.”
On the day of Sanwati’s delivery, as a doctor called out instructions to push and breathe to a woman, she examined the uterus of another. A senior resident doctor says, “We try to keep things as orderly as possible, but how does one manage this crowd?”
Sanwati’s children have been delivered free of cost. Trishala’s three-day stay at the hospital cost her around Rs 2 lakh. Birthing classes and OPD appointments during her pregnancy were another Rs 1 lakh, she estimates. The floor she was in had six rooms such as hers. Trishala says she did not hear any other woman in labour. “I am glad I did not hear anyone. Otherwise, I would have been terrified.”
Across gynaecology emergencies in the city, the gap between government and private facilities becomes pronounced. Health Minister Satyendar Jain, while elaborating on a plan to double the state government’s hospital beds from 10,000 to 20,000 in a year, has said beds for women and children will get priority. “Government hospitals cannot refuse admission to any patient. So even if they have to make patients share beds, they have to take patients in. Even I did not believe this was true till I came to the helm of affairs. It is a reality that resources are wanting compared to the demand…”