Gone are the days when the common man flocked government hospitals with hope of being cured of their sickness free of cost, and the Annal Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital in the city is no exception.
However, several patients here have been forced to taste the bitter pill of bribing staff, failing which they face harassment by the staff.
Right from the maternity ward to the mortuary, people are forced to keep spending at every pillar and post, to receive decent treatment that is supposed to be rendered free of cost. The worst place is the maternity ward. When a woman delivers a child, her kin have to grease the palms of employees, right from menial staff to the matron. The amount ranges anywhere between Rs 500 -Rs 1,000.
This sorry state of affairs at a government hospital comes to light days after a woman in Salem gave birth at a bus stand after she was turned away from the Government Medical College and Hospital as her husband could not pay the Rs 1,000 bribe demanded by staff.
In fact, there is a nexus between staff of various departments in fleecing patients. In this case, the ward woman who is supposed to shift the patient by stretcher from the labour ward, would move the stretcher only after the patient’s kin pay something to labour ward staff. Relatives are allowed to see the baby only after paying a bribe. If the baby is a girl, Rs 500 will do, but the amount is doubled if it is a boy.
Sometimes people even face the pathetic situation of their money being snatched away from their pockets, if they hesitate to pay up.
A man from Kulithalai whose wife delivered a boy on Monday said that he was forcibly striped of all the money he had in his pocket. “They initially demanded `1,000 as it was a boy. They insisted that I will be shown the baby only after I gave them money. When I told them, I had no money, they demanded `500. I did not have even that. But hurriedly, one of the staff, put his hands into my shirt pocket and took away `300 which I was keeping for the baby’s expenses,” the man, an agricultural labourer, said.
The man said he borrowed the sum from relatives. “Now, I once again have to go to my village to ask for a little money as they keep on asking me for the remaining amount,” he added.
The visiting hours at the maternity ward is between 6 am-8 am, 12 pm-2 pm and 5 pm-7 pm. “If you give `10, you will be allowed inside at any time. There is a package ‘fee’ for entry too. If you shell out `50, a visitor is allowed to enter anytime the whole day without complying to schedule,” said another visitor waiting for the scheduled visitor’s time.
More torturous is the mortuary, where staff demand a minimum of Rs 1,000 for post-mortem. Only when money is given, they start work.
When contacted, Dean Dr A Karthikeyan, said warning boards have been displayed in various places across the hospital. “This apart, we have been warning staff against accepting bribes. Recently, I had instructed all the staff not to demand bribes. If they were found accepting money, they will be suspended without any inquiry,” he added.