Ram Babu was suffering from jaundice and was in no condition to walk. But his family could not find a stretcher or wheelchair at GB Pant Hospital, one of Delhi's biggest super speciality healthcare centres. So, relatives had to alternately carry and drag the patient to the third-floor gastroenterology department.
"This is my third visit to the hospital and I have not received a single stretcher or a wheelchair for easy commuting to the doctor," said his wife, Sheela. "It is very painful to reach the doctor."
The super speciality OPD for neurology, gastroenterology, cardiology and psychiatry caters to at least 2,000 patients every day, but has just one wheelchair and two trolleys to transport invalid patients.
Suleeman Ahmed carried his ailing son in his arms to the neurology OPD on the second floor. "For the OPD patients, the hospital has provided only one stretcher and a wheelchair, despite knowing that there is a flood of critically ill patients. Not only me, all patients are facing a tough time here," he told Mail Today.
India's public health system is underfunded and overburdened as it struggles to meet the needs of more than 1.2 billion people, about 40 per cent of whom live below the poverty line.
Fifty-year-old Ramesh Kumar too was hauled by his relatives to the doctor's chamber. His son, Vijay, says he is getting used to the inconvenience. "This hospital fails to provide even basic facility to patients," he said.
Requesting anonymity, a senior doctor said due to acute shortage of wheelchairs and trolleys, a serious patient has to crawl to the concerned department and this can even prove fatal. "Despite being informed about the scarcity, hospital authorities have turned a blind eye to the problem," he said.
Mail Today had in November reported how officials at the state-run hospital were asking patients and their relatives to wait their turn for an MRI scan till 2019 as demand was piling up with the lone scanner lying inoperative.
Patients allege the institute is also not well equipped with medicine. A hospital source said, "A patient is getting one out of five medicines listed in his prescription. He or she is asked to buy other drugs from the market." The hospital's medical superintendent Dr Dharmender Gupta refused to speak to Mail Today.
He asked the reporter to contact hospital director Dr Rajiv Chawla. Chawla too didn't respond to calls and messages to his mobile phone.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government has tied up with 41 private hospitals to address the issue of delay. Heath minister Satyendar Jain said the government would soon announce the scheme, which would also ease the burden on the government's health infrastructure.
The AAP government said it has joined hands with 41 NABH-accredited hospitals for the purpose. The free facility will be provided to patients if the waiting period for surgery in government hospitals exceeds one month.
These surgeries, including heart bypass, kidney stone removal, cataract, would be provided free of charge under the scheme. The government will reimburse the hospitals at CGHS rates for the complete treatment including pre-surgery consultation, surgery, medicines, food and hospital stay.