Wild grass grows unchecked around piled up construction material,broken trolleys,beds and chairs. Dogs prowl around numerous puddles dotting the stone paved compound. Inside,the dull white walls are stained and the heaters rusty,the windows are broken. Soiled bandages,polythene bags,dust,medicine cartons and cigarette packets decorate the floor. A beggar has set shop in the corridor outside the small dingy room which is the hospital’s emergency ward.
This is not a scene from a junkyard in a city slum; this is Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital in Srinagar,Kashmir’s premier General Hospital and valley’s dirtiest.
Attendants who accompany patients eat inside the hospital wards and corridors and even in the Intensive Critical Care Unit (ICCU). Most of the times the left over meals are thrown out of the windows into the compound as the dustbins are almost always overflowing. In most of the wards,the rubbish overflows onto the floor near the nurses’ cabin.
Despite many No Smoking signs gracing the walls of the hospital,cigarette butts and empty packets are scattered almost everywhere on the floor.
Bathrooms are a sickening sight. Each of the wards has three bathrooms and there are toilets in the corridors as well. But most of the bathrooms are clogged and water keeps on leaking. The obnoxious fumes from the washrooms waft through the wards round the clock.
Sanitation and hygiene is not a priority in this hospital where it takes a visit of a VIP like the Chief Minister to force the administration to clean the hospital premises.
“Thanks to the menace of unionism and administrative apathy,sanitation workers and sweepers don’t do their jobs,” said a doctor,who works as a lecturer in the hospital. “Besides,when thousands of people visit the hospital everyday,there must to be a proper system of sanitation in place. There is no such system”.
This correspondent saw workers sweeping the hospital at half past eleven in the morning,blowing dust into the lungs of patients,and doctors as well. When asked why they don’t clean the hospital early in the morning when the hospital is not crowded,one of the sweepers retorted,”If the hospital authorities don’t have any problem with it,why do you? We know how to do our job,you need not tell us”.
A major reason for the mess,sources said,is that the hospital still uses primitive methods of cleaning. “The cleaning is still done with cloth swabs and brooms. There are no vacuum cleaners,washers and other modern cleaning tools,” a senior doctor said.
The hospital generates more than 2000 kilos of garbage everyday but there is a single incinerator to burn it. And it is lying defunct for the last four days.
The sanitation workers,however,blame the shortage of manpower for the mess. “We don’t have enough people to take care of such a big hospital. Even then the sanitation workers are doing their best to keep the hospital clean,” said President of the Medical Employees Federation,Shabir Langoo.
The hospital authorities blame it on the ever increasing number of patients visiting the hospital every day. “This is not a city hospital but a referral hospital. But we have to attend to patients with common cold and fever who should normally have been treated at the district hospitals and Primary Health Care centres. That stretches our resources to the limits,” the Medical Superintendent of the Hospital,Dr Waseem Querishi said. “But we are doing our best to keep this hospital clean”.