What happens if the roof comes down while one is undergoing treatment at a hospital? To put it midly, it couldn’t get any worse for the patient in question. That was exactly what happened at the over century old Government General Chest Hospital in Erragadda on Thursday, except that the unfortunate victim wasn’t a patient but a contract worker.
Narrating the nightmare, Padma (35), the worker, with four stitches on her forehead, recalled, “It happened around 5.30 a.m when I had finished sweeping the Respiratory Intensive Care Unit (RICU). I went to wash my hands near the main door. Suddenly, a part of the ceiling (made of plaster of paris) collapsed on me.” That part was done up about 20 years ago. Staff and patients at the hospital felt the rain the other day might have led to the incident. “Water seeps in through the ceiling everytime it rains,” complained Padma.
Patients were understandably terrified after the incident. 77-year-old Kodanda Shastry, an in-patient at the RICU, summed up their feeling thus: “Food, medicine and treatment here are very good, but what is the point of staying under the roof that might collapse any moment! Everytime the generators are switched on, the walls of the building start shaking.”
When contacted, superintendent of the hospital Dr P Navneet Sagar Reddy admitted the building was not safe. “In 2010, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, after inspecting the building, advised us to vacate it immediately. It found the building unsafe. The palace-turned-hospital is over a hundred years old. We have approached the authorities several times and in fact, in 2008 the government had sanctioned about `180 crore to build a new hospital building on the same campus spread over 65 acres,” he said. According to him, the hospital administration has very limited options and had to house a number of departments on the ground floor of the building. The the first floor was evacuated some time back amid fears that it was unsafe.
Departments like X-ray, minor operation theatre, endoscopy room, pulmonary function laboratory and central sterilization department are housed on the ground floor besides the RICU and a 50-bed female TB emergency ward. Asked about the generators, he replied, “the electrical wiring is outdated, and the walls are totally wet every time it rains. We live in fear of electrocution!” He was visibly angry with the officials’ negligent attitude towards the hospital.
“We are forced to house six wards for male TB patients in sheds that were once used as stables during the Nizam’s era. They are unfit for human habitation and at times, when it rains, we often see patients sleep under the cot due to leaking water,” he said.
He pointed out that all the patients in these wards, numbering over 100, have only one toilet. “Patients are forced to use open space and the hospital spends over Rs 8 lakh per month only on sanitation!” he explained. According to him, the hospital administration has been putting pressure on the government for a long time. “I have personally submitted a representation to Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy with signatures of 16 MLAs. Even then, the files are not moving. Now, consider this. A new hospital is sanctioned to Tirupati every time the CM goes there,” he fumed.
The hospital is also a Tertiary Care Post Graduate Training Institution in Pulmonary Medicine with hundreds of under-graduate and post-graduate medical students visiting from Osmania General Hospital, Gandhi Hospital and other peripheral hospitals every week. Dr Reddy said, “even under these circumstances, we continue to be on a par with institutes of Pulmonary Medicine Training in Delhi.” He signed off with a warning: “A major disaster can happen any time.”