A shrill sound of tinkling of steel vessels broke silence at the women medical ward in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation-run Shardaben General Hospital at night followed by the maid on duty shouting furiously at an elderly patient. Her fault was that she could not wash the dishes and left them under her bed.
The incident took place on August 9. Since the last few days, Class IV employees of the hospital have been threatening patients to wash their dishes or forget their next meal. The incident happened with 55-year-old Premvati Varma, who was brought in the emergency ward on August 4 with complaint of severe leg pain and malaria. She is a diabetic too. Her husband Krishnakant said, “Patients here are threatened that if they did not wash the dishes, they would not be given next meal.” Varmas are the residents of Nikol area in Ahmedabad.
In fact, patients have become used to the diktat as they do not approach higher authorities, Varmas added. A woman security guard confirmed about the practice, on condition of anonymity. The hospital has apparently a severe staff shortage. Karan Singh Rajput, husband of another patient, said that his wife was admitted on August 5 for severe nerve problem in her legs. “But she was forced to wash her dishes despite being in pain.
She was also brought to hospital in a state of emergency,” said Rajput, whose wife was discharged after three days, as she had to look after her sick son back home.
Another woman, whose 18-year-old daughter was undergoing treatment for suspected tuberculosis, said that patients had resigned to their fate as it was difficult to dissuade the headstrong staff about vulnerability of a patient. If not patients, then relatives are forced to do the job, she said. Resident Medical Officer M M Nirmal refused to comment saying “this was an administrative matter”. Assistant director Pranav Barot said “this exactly was the domain of sanitary staff”.
Sanitary Inspector Bipin Patel said, “We have not received any complaint of this nature in seven months of my job here. Also, this may have happened due to shortage of Class IV staff,” he said, adding that out of 453 posts, 212 posts are vacant. Mahesh Parmar, assistant sanitary inspector, also said that the night duty in-charge sister did not report any incident of patients being forced to wash dishes. “A maid has to wash the dishes and she cannot pass on her job to patients. If this has happened, action will be taken against the people responsible,” he said.
When contacted, standing committee chairman Bhupendra Patel promised to look into the incident. Dr Suresh Patel, chairman of the hospital committee, said that till Monday when the committee meeting was held, no such issue was brought to light. “We will have it investigated and if this is found out to be true, action will be taken.
The hospital is located in the labour dominated area of Saraspur in the eastern part of Ahmedabad. It has 620 beds and draws around 1,300 outdoor patients daily.