Patients have seldom been treated as 'guests' at the Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH). But the circumstances today are different.
With the media and the government attention riveted on the 25 survivors of the mid-day meal victims of Dharmasati Gandaman village under Masrakh block of Saran district, they are enjoying the newfound 'guest' status ever since they came to the PMCH here on July 17.
The victims, most in their pre-teens, are not just getting free treatment, medicines and meals from the hospital. In fact, in absence of potable drinking water source for patients at the hospital, the 'privileged' ones also get a bottle of mineral water every day.
The divide is clear. Just before lunch, a hospital watch and ward staff goes around the paediatric ward, the intensive care unit and its step-down unit - where the Saran patients are admitted - with chilled disposable bottles of mineral bottles. He calls out to attendants - "Chhapra se aayen hain (have you come from Chapra)" - before handing over a bottle to each attendant. Those not from Chhapra, watch the discrimination helplessly.
The Saran patients even have senior doctors on their toes. For, the duty roster has been prepared in a manner that doctors have to make rounds every two hours. Here, too, the divide is clear. The doctors are selective in seeing patients as they make repeated rounds of wards. In normal cases, senior doctors make rounds just once a day and get updates on their patients through their juniors.
"We are making rounds two-hourly," said Dr Nigam Prakash Narain, associate professor of paediatrics, under whose unit these patients have been admitted.
The hospital administration has constituted two panels - one from the paediatrics and another from the medicine department - to monitor the condition of the killer meal victims. The paediatrics panel comprises Dr Sanjata Roy Choudhury, Dr Raja Ram Prasad Singh and Dr Nigam Prakash Narain, while the medicine panel is headed by Dr JKL Das.
It's not the survivors alone who get preferential treatment. Their attendants, too, are on the PMCH priority list. With free meals, restricted only to hospital in-patients, attendants of Saran tragedy victims have also been extended the same privilege, even if it comes from outside the hospital kitchen.
"They (the Saran school meal victims and their attendants) are our guests. We are even preparing for a warm send-off, the day they are discharged from the hospital," says PMCH superintendent Dr Amarkant Jha Amar.
Sure, no one is complaining. For, the survivors of killer meal and their kin have been through hell. The government, on its part, is leaving no stone unturned to save lives and, by its benevolence, assuage the hurt feelings of survivors and their kin.