HYDERABAD: AT a time when services of government hospitals in Hyderabad have hit a new low in terms of the staff count, medical infrastructure and bribery, the least one could ask for is a proper grievance mechanism. Patients in these hospitals, however, are left with little scope to complain and seek redressal.
In tertiary healthcare centres like Osmania General Hospital (OGH) and Niloufer Hospital, the only means for patients to get their grievances addressed is through the on-duty Resident Medical Officer (RMO). According to the Charter of Patient Rights, every patient’s complaint warrants a registration number. However, more often than not, the RMOs on duty decide the gravity of complaints and note them down in a duty-register. In other words, there are no digitised records of these complaints. Further, the redressal is initiated only at the behest of the hospital authorities.
While OGH has complaint/suggestion boxes at certain nooks and corners of the hospital, Niloufer Hospital authorities are yet to install complaint boxes. Dr Murali Krishnan, the superintendent of Niloufer, says: “We have had discussions and deliberations about putting up complaint boxes. But the proposal is yet to be passed and executed. For now the patients can complain to the RMO on duty.” Patient dissatisfaction at Niloufer has often taken the shape of protests, dharnas, and scuffles with doctors. When Express visited the hospital, patients complained that despite having raised the issue of lack of water and sanitation facilities to the doctors concerned, the hospital had turned a deaf ear.
Meanwhile, Dr B Nagendra, the superintendent at OGH, explains: “We have a control room -- Room 108 -- in the OP department. Patients usually come there with their grievances and the RMO writes them down. If the RMO can handle it, the complaint is resolved then and there. If not, the superintendent is informed. If there are administrative issues, the patient has to take it up with the hospital administration department, where, at present, a Deputy Civil Surgeon RMO notes down the issue in the duty-register. We do not have a Civil Surgeon RMO.”
However, out-patient department RMO, Dr Raj Kumar, confirms that not all complaints are entered into the duty-register. Further, the registration numbers for the complaints are not always given out to the patients. The RMO decides the gravity of the incident and notes down only the ‘serious’ ones. Dr Raj Kumar adds, “Most of the complaints that come to us are recurring in nature -- regarding sanitation, doctors not being available, or lack of water facilities. It is a fairly monotonous task to cater to them on a daily basis. A different cell with a designated HR to cater to them and maintain digital records would be of great help.”
On the other hand, Gandhi Hospital has internally deployed a grievance redressal committee comprising four heads of departments, who are in charge of investigating the complaints made to the RMOs.
Patients not tech savvy enough for online redressal?
The administrative staff of government hospitals often assume that the patients who come to the hospital are not tech savvy due to their socio-economic background. As a result, officials don’t pay much heed to setting up a digitised redressal mechanism. Google’s review section about these hospitals says otherwise. Not only are they filled with single-star rated reviews mentioning bribery issues, but they are also often written by patients/attendants, who are considered ‘not-so-educated’. Somehow, the hospital’s ‘patient’s not being tech-savvy enough’ argument falls flat when it comes to setting up digitised grievance redressal forums.