A hospital or a landfill?

By Emidao Shylla

Shillong Civil Hospital as we all know is a government-run hospital, and people who go there for treatment are ‘privileged’ not because they are affluent but they have a large store of patience and no dignity, no matter how badly they are treated. I apologise if the words used here are not appropriate, but do let me know if there is a correct term. What is the fault of patients that they are treated with such disdain by the nurses and staff? I fail to understand this. Patients have come to the hospital with the hope of receiving treatment and being cured of their illnesses, but instead they are met with a barrage of loud noises, arrogant attitudes, and unpleasant behaviour from the staff, which includes doctors, nurses and assistants etc.
Passion and compassion are essential ingredients for a person who chooses to work in a hospital. Even before taking the job and choosing this career a person knows what it takes to be a nurse or doctor. A ten-to-five job is the most monotonous if a person’s only aim is to do a ‘job’ just to put food on the table. But for doctors and nurses, work is really worship because they are dealing with vulnerable humans. If they have no interest in this service they should not have opted for this vocation in the first place.
The scenes that play out in Civil Hospitals, or any government-run hospital, are more likely to be similar. Most importantly the experiences of thousands of patients and attendants leave a bad taste in the mouth. A question that begs an answer is – what use is a government hospital? What is its value? Why was it created? Who should benefit from it? Why is there a need for a government hospital when we already have many other private hospitals? The answer to each question is known to us. Government run hospitals are meant to meet the needs of the underprivileged of our society who cannot afford health care in private hospitals.
Additionally, a government hospital is expected to be fully equipped, functioning machinery and other basic infrastructure, which the Shillong Civil Hospital lacks in particular. Is it because the allocated funds are barely used? If the funds were not utilised then where did the money go? Who should we hold accountable for this? How can a government hospital lack a simple machine like a photocopying machine? They may have one or two in every Block although we don’t expect that they should be available everywhere. These photocopiers ought to be available not just in administrative areas, but in every office space where paperwork is involved. In the case of a person who has permission to get discharged if he/she had no attendant then the patient himself/herself is being told to run down to the “Xerox Centre”, which is located outside the hospital within the campus, to get a “Discharged Summary” or “Discharged Slip” (piece of paper) photocopied so the duplicate can be withheld by the authorities. This experience is very fresh, and I recall my sister being asked by a nurse to get a photocopy done. If this isn’t ridiculous, then what is?
Another episode is that of a patient admitted to the Civil Hospital who is being asked to have their blood test done at another “Private Hospital.” This is because the Civil Hospital doesn’t have laboratory kits, diagnostic kits, or whatever it is called in the hospital. What happens if a patient has no immediate attendees? Is he/she expected to crawl all the way to the nearest hospital i.e; Woodland Hospital (as recommended by the nurses) to get his/her blood test done and to wait for hours until the report is procured, to avoid the to and fro futile trip? A government hospital with no basic diagnostic facilities is as good as being shut down.
Isn’t a hospital expected to always be spick and span? Then why does one feel that entering a government hospital is akin to a journey through a landfill? The smell is overpoweringly nauseas, the stains speak of apathy and a couldn’t care less attitude and, most importantly, a healthy patient (yet to be discharged) will have to extend his stay the moment after he uses the shared toilet in the general ward. A toilet by name, but a dustbin by appearance. Why can’t they keep the hospital clean? Isn’t that a basic requirement? Why can’t they hire people to clean and mop the rooms/wards in intervals as is being done in other hospitals? Why must a government-run hospital be left in such a decrepit state?
One wonders if there is a system of accountability in the entire hierarchy? Isn’t the Superintending doctor supposed to take a call on all of these deficiencies? Are all the staff well-trained from the higher ranks down to the lowest? Why do they have to be so rude to everyone? What hurts most patients and their relatives is to be treated rudely just because they are from the rural areas and illiterate or semi-literate. Why is there a lack of compassion towards the sick? People with no empathy should not even be employed in the healthcare sector.
The problem with a “Government job” is that once appointed the employees feel that no one can touch them irrespective of whether they deliver or not. True that nurses and doctors can be fatigued by dealing with patients but aren’t they mentally prepared for this vocation they have chosen? When will all government employees, from security guards to drivers, MTAs and LDAs, to officers and senior officers, learn the human values of consideration for others basic decency and politeness? Why do we common citizens, visiting any government office, have to stoop before these public servants?
When will this cult of a ‘government servant’ acting as a ruler ever be corrected? When will this chain of privilege break and allow the formation of a healthy culture of service? If not now, then when? It is doubtful if we will ever see such a day! Maybe sometime in the distant future a revolution will change this arrogance and entitlement.
On a brighter note though, there are still a few, very few who are doing what it takes to make this world a better place and still care to give their best to the patients. May their tribe increase!

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