Madhumati Devi, 23, went to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to get her son Gulshan (3) treated for cancer of the intestine. Her family spent three days looking for a bed, longer than it took them to reach Delhi from Khagaria district in east Bihar.
“There is no signage, no helpdesk or map to guide patients,” Devi said.
With over 40 departments and six super-specialty centres, AIIMS is a labyrinth spread over 165 acres. Most patients take hours — sometimes days — to negotiate their way across the sprawling campus.
“We reached the hospital at 8 a.m. on October 4 but made it to the cancer department only at 12.30 pm. By then, it was past OPD hours, so no one examined Gulshan,” said Devi’s 25-year-old husband Manoj Kumar, a daily wage labourer.
The Kumars received an appointment card only the next day and managed to meet the doctor after queuing up for more than three hours. Again, they were late for the OPD.
“It was after OPD hours but we begged the doctor to see our ailing son, who was crying in pain as one of his eyes was bleeding,” said Manoj.
The doctor examined Gulshan and asked the family to get him admitted the next day at 9 a.m. after getting some medical tests done.
By then, the laboratory had closed for the day. The next day, they stood in long serpentine queues again to get tested. “By the time the tests were done, the doctor in the ward refused to admit Gulshan, saying the bed had been allotted to someone else,” Manoj said.
By now, both the eyes of the little boy were popping out, looking as if they were about to explode.
Holding the little boy in his arms, the 63-year-old grandfather Raghubir Kumar was busy keeping the flies and the mosquitoes away.
“If AIIMS weren’t such a maze, his treatment would have started by now,” the old man said.
Many similar stories abound in one of the best hospitals in the country.
“The patient rush is huge and so is the campus. So far, we have not been able to make a central information desk for patients,” said Dr D. K. Sharma, medical superintendent.
“There are big plans for revamping the campus but everything takes time.”