Navigating to room number 2213 at Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital involved unprecedented security check Friday night. Access to the room number 2213, designated the “Emergency Fever Ward”, in north Delhi’s biggest government-run hospital was past six guards and a pat-down. Among the six were two hefty men, almost 6-ft tall and dressed in black, in charge of the pat-downs at the first entry point. They ensured no one entered with sharp objects and chewing tobacco. There were two more checkpoints to cross.
Once in, the grim situation caused by dengue and chikungunya was immediately evident. Two doctors attended to patients and a nurse took blood samples. Right outside, there were more waiting for treatment.
At 11.41 pm, voices were raised. Inside the room, on the extreme right, 35-year old Ranjeet, complaining of high fever and chills, was on the stretcher without a blanket. His brother Sanjeet, pacing the room, cried out for help. “Bukhaar bahut tez ho gaya hai. Kucch to madad kar do. Kab se leta hua hai (He is running high fever. We have been waiting for a long time. Please help us),” he shouted and started arguing with the nurse.
Within seconds, one of the two hefty guards was by his side. The guard shut the door of the ward. “Sab ka yahi halat hai. Kuch nahi hoga. Wapas jao (Everyone’s condition is the same here. Nothing can be done. Go back),” he told Sanjeet, who walked out of the room to get a water bottle. For the next 40 minutes, he stood next to his brother, sponging his body with lukewarm water.
Around midnight, there was no breathing space for doctors and hospital staff.
At 12.15 am, Priyanka (25) was slumped over her husband’s shoulder. She has severe joint pain and high fever. Blood tests are conducted and the doctors tell the staff to take Priyanka to “ward number 1”. No stretcher is provided and her husband carries her to the other ward, almost 200 metres away from the “emergency fever ward”. Priyanka wasn’t the only one who did not get a stretcher.
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Kanhaiya (35) too sought one for his 65-year-old mother who came to the hospital with severe joint pain. He asked the two hefty guards for a stretcher. They did not respond. He decided not to wait and carried his mother to ward number 1.
Outside the ward, 50-year-old Satinder, a resident of Begumpur, was lying on the ground. He was given paracetamol more than six hours ago. He waited for further treatment. Around 7 pm, doctors had asked him to collect the blood sample reports. Till 12.46 am, the family had no response from the hospital staff on the reports. “My husband has been lying on the ground for seven hours. They told us to collect the blood sample reports. However, the hefty guards say we have to wait. They are not even allowing us to go talk to the doctor. He has been sleeping on the ground. Just because you are giving us free treatment does not mean you can treat poor people like this,” said Satinder’s wife Meena.
When contacted, a doctor at the hospital said, “There has been huge rush of patients and not a single patient is being sent back. Our focus is to provide immediate relief. Most of these cases do not require hospitalization. Only when there is a urgent need, we are recommending hospitalisation.”