Filthy loos in govt hospitals irk middle class | India News

The Covid crisis has meant that many from the middle class have seen the inside of a government hospital for the first time in their lives. For many, what they saw confirmed their impression of government hospitals as places with filthy toilets and an all-pervasive stink, but some were pleasantly surprised.
Videos of horrible conditions inside government hospitals posted by patients and shared widely on social media added to people’s horror about public facilities. It didn’t help that governments did little to counter these images other than protest weakly about how unfair such portrayal was. As a result, in most states, people scrambled to get beds in private hospitals, which filled up pretty quickly.
In Delhi, this resulted in 60% of the beds in the biggest government Covid facility, Lok Nayak Hospital, remaining vacant at the peak of the surge even as people ran around looking for beds and paid exorbitant bills in private facilities.
In state like Telangana, where initially only government hospitals were allowed to treat Covid, many got a forced experience of a public facility. But the moment private facilities were allowed to treat Covid patients, people started doing the rounds of private hospitals hoping to find a bed within their paying capacity even as many died in transit between private hospitals.
The biggest grouse about Gandhi hospital in Hyderabad, a public facility, was about its toilets. “I used to keep track of when the washrooms were cleaned and used it immediately after cleaning. I constantly lived in the fear that I might catch some infection using the toilet that so many other patients were using,” said a 37-year-old patient, who had been treated in the hospital.
Currently over 90% of beds in government hospitals allotted for Covid treatment are lying vacant in Hyderabad, while private hospitals have a wait list of 3-4 days. Even as many complain of not being able to pay for the private hospitals, they are reluctant to avail free treatment in government facilities.
However, in Bangalore, Dr Prashant Jain, an orthopaedic surgeon who was Covid positive and spent 12 days in the Trauma Care Centre of Bangalore Medical College & Research Institute (BMCRI) was pleasantly surprised. On June 12, the doctor along with his elderly parents got admitted to the hospital. “That was our first visit to a government hospital as patients. As against the public apprehension of government hospitals and hygiene issues there, the hospital had good facilities. Patient management was very well planned. Those 12 days in hospital, I had quality time with my parents and we had no reason to crib,” said Dr Jain.
Expectations about health facilities seem to be as much generational as about class. Older people seem more accepting of government facilities having grown up seeking treatment in them. Karthika S, a 27-year-old who works for an IT firm, had never stepped into a government hospital (GH) before but went to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital when her mother had an upset stomach. She and her mother tested positive for Covid. While she was asymptomatic, her mother was advised admission. “I refused to admit her to a GH, but there were no beds available in the private hospitals,” she said.
Her doctor, who also worked for a government hospital, told her that GH doctors had treated more patients than anyone else in the state. “But I was terribly scared. All I could remember from the first visit was the stench. I have also heard of dingy wards and toilets,” she said. Her mother, however, decided to move to a government hospital. “She told me I was born there. She is now undergoing treatment there and is recovering well,” she said.
Similarly, 50-year-old Hari Singh’s son took to twitter to complain about Lok Nayak Hospital, about delay in getting oxygen and unclean toilets. Back home after an 18-day stay in the hospital, Hari Singh is quite generous in his praise of the hospital. “We were six in a ward and there were three or four such wards at the end of which was a row of toilets, two each for men and women, and three bathrooms and they were kept quite clean. Our disposable sheets were changed every day. After a few initial problems, we were well looked after,” he said.
In contrast, a woman who landed from Spain and was taken to a quarantine facility complained bitterly on twitter that it is unthinkable that there were just three toilets for 40 people. For most middle class, the idea of toilets shared by a large number of people is becoming increasingly unacceptable. There have been more social media posts and videos about cleanliness and filthy toilets in public facilities than about medical care.
Governments seem more bothered by criticism about lack of ventilators or ICU beds. “They spend lakhs on equipment. They ought to spend more on cleanliness, especially well-kept toilets. It matters to people. We have been raising this issue for a long time as we are forced to work in these unhygienic conditions,” said a resident doctor in a government hospital.
On June 11, an 82-year-old woman in a government hospital in Jalgaon being found dead in a toilet after eight days hit the headlines. For many, it confirmed that toilets don’t get cleaned for days in government hospitals. That may not always be true, but the perception persists.

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