The landscape turns from withering green to arid brown as one head from Mumbai to Palghar. By the time one reaches tribal pockets such as Jawhar, Mokhada and Vikramgad, the paucity of water is evident, especially in rural and sub-district hospitals.
In Mokhada’s 30-bed rural hospital, the washrooms in both wards on the ground floor have not been washed for several days. With over 25 patients, two doctors and one nurse, the hospital has been functioning with water from a lone handpump in the backyard. “Personal hygiene has gone for a toss,” the nurse said.
While the operation theatre has been shut, patients’ uniforms are washed once or twice a week. The bedsheets are washed when water is available.
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The family of Gauri Wagrekar, who was admitted last week for abdominal pain, claimed they have to go out of the hospital to use the handpump when they need water.
The government pipeline that supplied water to the rural hospital has been non-functional for more than a month. “That was the only source of water. The wells nearby are drying up and only locals draw water from them. The hospital administration has requested the municipality several times but the water line has not been repaired,” said Shraddha Shrungarpure of NGO Arohan, which is assisting villagers with the water crisis.
According to an on-duty medical officer, water is required to wash bedsheets, patients’ uniforms, operation theatre, apart from drinking and cleaning the hospital. With tankers coming once every few days, drinking water is not available for patients. Mangala Vishnu, who accompanied her relative from a nearby hamlet, said, “We go out and get water to drink.”
The situation is similar at the Jawhar sub-district hospital, where the 100-bed institution houses over 130 patients. “The tank was made when it was a 30-bed hospital. Patient strength has now increased to 100 but the tank capacity is the same,” said Dr Ramdas Marad, the medical superintendent. While he said the hospital gets two-three tankers every day to compensate for water cuts by the authorities, staffers claimed that only one tanker came every two days.
Vaishali Jadhav, who delivered a baby on April 16 at Jawhar hospital, kept asking her mother-in-law for water. “There is no water to drink. We can’t buy bottles,” she said. According to the hospital’s lab technician Shama Memon, several hospital staffers got their own stock of drinking water every day.
While major surgeries have not been delayed, the water shortage is visible in how the hospital functions. Jadhav has been in the same clothes for two days.
“The water cut can pose infection risks in hospitals,” said Mushtaq Kotwal, attached with a local NGO that conducts health camps in Palghar.
The condition in Wada’s rural hospital, the most industrialised taluka in Palghar, was relatively better. “There are borewells here. Groundwater levels are better than in the tribal areas,” said Kotwal.
Palghar District Collector Abhijeet Bangar said funds would soon be pooled in from the tribal department to provide a drinking water line to Jawhar hospital. “The areas of Vikramgad, Jawhar and Mokhada face water scarcity from April to May. This year it has been worse. While we are addressing the problem in Jawhar hospital, we have not been able to do so for Mokhada, where there are no perennial sources of water,” he said.