The Aarey Hospital, constructed in 1968, stands mostly empty with no government authority ready to fund its much-needed renovation. The once 24-bed hospital currently has only two beds. The hospital’s 10-odd staff personnel have requested the Aarey Development Board to provide basic requirements like an examination table, autoclave, cots, mattresses and stethoscope. “These requests are made every year. The last we requested was three months ago,” said a hospital staffer.
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Aarey Colony, in Goregaon East, is marked by lush greenery hiding tiny tribal hamlets, away from the city. In one such Vanicha Pada (tribal village), Devki Bhoir (13), contracted typhoid in May. While the hospital is a five minute journey away, with no diagnostic facilities available, Devki’s mother Khala had to skip daily work to take Devki to Jogeshwari’s Balasaheb Thackeray Trauma Hospital for a week’s hospitalisation. It took three months for her to recover. “There is only one doctor who also leaves by afternoon. When we went there, they had no means to treat Devki except give some medicines,” said Khala, who is a domestic help. Her husband Vasu Bhoir, a painter, suffers from tuberculosis but gets no counselling from the hospital. “They only give medicines. There is no counselor,” he said.
In February, the state government passed a government resolution to transfer ownership of Aarey hospital to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Till now, the transfer remains on paper. The hospital has been a victim to constant negligence. In the last decade, the hospital’s maternity ward shut down, its operation theatre became non-functional and the slabs in the ceiling have started chipping away. As cots became old, they were discarded but new ones were never procured. Now the hospital’s corridors are dusty, with all wards locked.
The Aarey colony in Goregaon East has at least 27 padas housing over 50,000 tribals. With no ambulance available at the hospital and 108 emergency number service allegedly taking very long to reach, tribals have to shell out money to travel to either Goregaon’s Siddharth or Jogeshwari’s Trauma Hospital.
The hospital’s main reception area is the only section renovated — only because several shoots are conducted there for movies. The latest shoot was on Saturday for a government advertisement.
“We have written to authorities to transfer the hospital to the state government. They will be able to run a rural hospital here at least,” said an official from hospital. Currently, of two posts for doctors, only one is filled by BAMS doctor. The hospital runs from 9 am to 4 pm instead of the 24-hour facility. There are only four nurses and four ward boys and one pharmacist in the hospital, an RTI query filed by local teacher Shailesh Subhash Patre showed.
“For two years, I have been seeing a lot of children fall ill. Their parents are daily labourers who cannot afford to miss work. With no facility in this hospital, they are forced to spend on transportation and consult other hospitals,” said Patre.
The Bhoirs earn Rs 7,000 per month and had to spent Rs 2,000 on just blood tests.
According to medical officer Ravindra Patel, he has found chikungunya-like symptoms in over 40 patients in two months. “But we do not have sophisticated tests to confirm. I have to refer all these patients to other hospitals,” he said. At least 10 to 15 patients with viral fever approach the hospital every day, most are referred to BMC-run hospitals.
When contacted, Aarey Colony’s CEO Gajanan Raut said the board is trying to sustain the hospital with whatever manpower it has. “We do not have permission to sanction funds for renovation since the process of transfer to BMC is under way. We cannot say how long it will take,” he said.
Using the hospital as a shooting premise is helping them generate revenue.