The sad story of a pregnant woman having to stand up to the staff at a government hospital, who refused to help her deliver her baby which her relatives and friends had to do, once again brings the spotlight on the trauma that the poor have to undergo at public hospitals
Ashok Kumar | Clarion India
MUMBAI – It is an incident that Sabina Ansari is unlikely to ever forget in her life. A pregnant woman had been rushed by her family to the Indira Gandhi Memorial (IGM) hospital in Bhiwandi for delivery of the child.
Much after midnight about a fortnight ago, the woman was admitted to the maternity section, but some of the staff members told the relatives that they would have to shell out Rs1,500 to them (of course, without the official receipt, as it was a demand for bribe) for the delivery, or else take her to another government hospital in Thane, about 20km away.
The poor woman pleaded with the hospital staff that the money would be brought the next morning, but they refused to help her and went to sleep. “It was shocking, as the woman was in pain and needed help,” recalls Ansari, an activist and member of the Movement for Peace and Justice (MPJ), Bhiwandi. “But they refused to even look at her.”
Finally, some of her friends and relatives helped deliver the child at around 3.45 am in the maternity section, even as the hospital staff were sleeping. They finally woke up and saw the relatives help the woman deliver the child. They did not intervene, but instead took the child away and refused to let the mother have it, demanding money.
Dr Intekhab Shaikh, president, MPJ, Bhiwandi, told Clarion India: “We had to intervene and get the child released from the nurses. We also sent letters to the hospital administration, the local MLA and others. Two of the staff, who were on a contract basis, were suspended.”
Sadly, such incidents have been happening at the government-owned hospital in Bhiwandi for years. “It is common for the staff to demand Rs3,000 to Rs5,000 from the poor people for delivery of a child at the hospital,” he points out. “They tell the people that they would have to pay Rs15,000 to Rs20,000 for delivering the baby at private maternity homes, so it is better to pay a smaller amount to staff at the government hospital.”
Ansari is deeply worried over the deteriorating condition at the hospital. “Poor patients cannot go anywhere else, so they are forced to pay up at the government hospital,” she says. “The staff shout at the patients, their relatives and friends, demanding money.”
And it is not just the maternity ward where the money is demanded. Even heart and cancer patients and those suffering from other ailments are harassed and asked to pay money to the public hospital staff. “The staff, including the ‘sisters’ at the hospital are like Nawabs,” points out Ansari, who is a nurse working at a private hospital in Bhiwandi. “But the poor patients have no alternative, especially during major crises, and end up paying the money that is demanded by the staff.”
Ansari interacts a lot with the poor women patients who come to the hospital for admission and hears traumatic stories from them, which shatters her. Helpless and unable to access private healthcare services, they have to tolerate the insults from the staff at the public hospital, who also demand money for the services that are supposed to be free for the poor.