As the city continues to reel under a blistering heat wave which has claimed over 800 lives across India, the worst affected are outstation patients who — with no other accommodation — are forced to live on scorching platforms outside hospitals, sometimes for months on end.
Many of them are awaiting doctor’s recommendation to get accommodation at dharamshalas near city hospitals. Three of these are run by AIIMS.
Santosh Chaudhary, his wife and their five-year-old son, who is battling brain tumour, are one of the 25 families braving the Capital’s 45-degree sun on the pavement outside AIIMS. Chaudhary, 34, and his family came to Delhi from Bihar three months ago when their son’s tumour returned within a year of surgery.
They initially secured accommodation at the AIIMS-run Sai dharamshala but had to move out after a month as there is a huge waiting list for beds.
“We stayed at the Sai dharamshala but then they kicked us out saying ‘you can’t stay here for more than a month’. So we moved to the footpath, where more than 25 other families are living while getting treated,” said Chaudhary.
To secure an accommodation in one of the three dharamshalas where beds are available at a nominal cost, patients need to produce a doctor’s slip. And getting hold of one is a difficult task.
A patient who did not want to be named had been living on the pavement for a week before her son managed to get a doctor’s reference. “We finally got the reference slip from the doctor after a week of running after him… these doctors are usually very busy,” the woman’s son said.
Many like Visheshwar Yadav from Bihar have left behind houses in native states. “Doctors have told me I need heart surgery but till I deposit the money for it, I have to live here on the footpath even though we have a house in Bihar. The heat makes life here unbearable,” said Yadav, who has been living on the pavement for the past one week.
The scorching sun, however, doesn’t seem to bother some. Dafedar Shrivastav, from Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh, and his son spend their time on the pavement outside the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital where his sister has been admitted for delivery. “I am not allowed to go inside. I want to meet my sister but only ladies are allowed. So, my wife helps my sister and I stay here with my son,” said Dafedar cheerfully.