CHENNAI: Even as hundreds of patients, attenders and even staff at Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital are struggling for drinking water in these times of acute shortage, a fully-functional reverse osmosis plant donated by a charitable trust has been left unused for over a year, allegedly due to a fight over claiming credit for the facility.
It was a year ago that the RO plant and the water booth building were set up by a charitable trust at a cost of Rs 14 lakh. The 1,000-litre capacity unit also had the facility for cold, normal and hot water.
However, it is yet to be put to use after health minister C Vijaya Basker expressed displeasure over a non-governmental trust bagging the credit for setting up the much-needed facility.
“The plant was about to be put to use. Then one day, while he was on his regular inspection at the hospital, the health minister saw the RO plant that sported the name of the charitable trust. He immediately asked the management to pull down the board that carried the name, making his displeasure known about private trusts claiming credit,” said a source.
Soon enough, the board was pulled down and was replaced with the medical college’s name. According to another source, the hospital authorities were enthusiastic when the proposal was first put forth. “The management had then said it would be helpful to have a drinking water facility in the hospital that receives a large number of gynaecology and obstetrics cases but not enough pure drinking water in the premises. They said the hospital’s daily requirement was around 10,000 litres,” the source added.
Now, despite having a water booth that can provide 1,000 litres of hot and cold water free of cost, hundreds of patients and attenders who flock the government hospital from far-off places are forced to purchase drinking water of questionable quality, leading to a thriving business right outside the hospital premises.
When this reporter asked for water, the attenders pointed to these small traders outside the premises. “You won’t get drinking water anywhere inside the campus,” said D Sumathy, an attender from Arakkonam.
“I have to buy four litres of water per day, spending Rs 10 to refill each litre. Packaged water costs double of that. Though the treatment is good and free, those coming here are forced to spend a lot of money due to the lack of a drinking water facility,” said S Eswari, a patient who is scheduled for a surgery.
This is big money for most patients who approach the government hospital. “When people like me cannot ever afford to spend Rs 100 for a day’s meal, how can we spend so much on water,” added E Gowri, who has been staying with her sick daughter for the past three days.
Speaking to Express, minister Vijaya Basker said he was not in favour of such publicity-oriented initiatives by private concerns at institutions like medical college hospitals that are established and maintained by the government spending crores of public money.
When asked about the solution for water shortage, the minister added, “I will sort it out within 24 hours by utilising our own funds, but outsiders seeking publicity will strictly not be entertained,” he added.