10 lakh people, one hospital
Munni Sheikh (28) delivered her third child in the compound of Sion hospital. The baby died an hour later. Soon after she went into labour last December, Munni was referred to Sion by the municipal Shatabdi Hospital near her Govandi home.mumbai Updated: Mar 11, 2010 01:18 IST
Munni Sheikh (28) delivered her third child in the compound of Sion hospital. The baby died an hour later.
Soon after she went into labour last December, Munni was referred to Sion by the municipal Shatabdi Hospital near her Govandi home.
Her delivery was likely to be complicated, the staff told her, and Shatabdi — ill equipped, under-staffed and with no blood bank — would not be able to treat her.
“Shatabdi Hospital had only one ambulance, and that day it was not available,” said social worker Pushpa Bhonsle. “So Munni and her husband Mohammed [40, a daily wage earner], hailed a cab. It took an hour to reach Sion because of the traffic.”
By the time the couple got to Sion, Munni was writhing in pain. But she was not allowed in till her husband had made it to the head of the registration queue.
As he stood in line, his wife sat on the concrete ground outside the hospital, crying.
An hour later, with her husband still standing in line, Munni delivered her baby. A nurse rushed to the spot and took the infant, which had got entangled in Munni’s bloody salwar, to the doctors.
It was too late. Munni’s baby did not make it.
‘The hospital functions like a dispensary’
The Sheikhs’ is not a stray case in the central suburban belt of Govandi-Deonar-Mankhurd-Trombay.
To begin with, there is only one municipal hospital for the 10.17 lakh people here — the 210-bed Shatabdi. Built in 1982, when the population here was 5 lakh, it was never expanded.
“The BMC approved a plan to build another wing with 310 beds, but the project has been put on hold due to paucity of funds,” said hospital superintendent Dr Pramod Potnis. “Meanwhile, we are now catering to a population of about 25 lakh people — some coming from as far as Vashi, which did not have its own municipal hospital till very recently.”
Far from making up for the lack of beds with newer equipment or a state-of-the-art operation theatre, the hospital is ill equipped and short-staffed.
The Intensive Care Unit has three ventilators but no one qualified to operate them. Four of the six surgeons’ posts are vacant.
And, with no blood bank, no surgeries that result in blood loss can be conducted here — unless scheduled much in advance, with the requisite blood brought in from Rajawadi Hospital in Ghatkopar.
Most complicated surgeries and emergency cases — like Munni Sheikh’s delivery — are forwarded to Sion hospital or Rajawadi.
“Thanks to all these shortcomings, the hospital, which is built on 7 acres of land, functions more like a dispensary,” said Govandi resident Nazeer Sayyed. “That too a 9-to-5 dispensary. If you go to Shatabdi after 5 pm with a minor wound, there is no doctor to even examine it.”
Neglect, from the grassroots up
The primary healthcare facilities in the Govandi-Deonar-Mankhurd-Trombay belt are also virtually non-existent.
“The Shivaji Nagar slum, which houses more than 5 lakh people, does not have a single civic dispensary,” said Leena Joshi from non-governmental organisation Apnalaya. “There are three health posts, but they focus only on family planning and vaccinations. Adjoining slums Mandala, Shivneri and Ekta Nagar also have no health facilities at all.”
One of the health posts — the Urban Health Centre at Shivaji Nagar — is run by Nair hospital’s Preventive and Social Medicine Department. Doctors visit the centre every day but leave by noon.
Walk into the centre on any afternoon and you are likely to find dogs sleeping in the airy, one-storey structure. A section of the centre is also being used for sewing and mehendi classes for women.
One maternity home, one gynaecologist
For years, locals have been demanding that the Shivaji Nagar urban health centre be converted into a maternity home, but the civic body has not acted on their demand.
“The nearest maternity home is in Deonar,” said local corporator Asha Sheikh. “It has only 20 beds, so it’s always full. There are many private maternity homes but the slum-dwellers are too poor to pay Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 for deliveries. Many are forced to take a loan just to pay for the delivery.”
The Deonar maternity home has just one gynaecologist — and an operation theatre that is not equipped to conduct Caesarean sections or complicated deliveries.
Private doctors operating in the area, meanwhile, say the BMC not only needs to have more and better health facilities, but also needs to have specialised health programmes here.
“The incidence of tuberculosis, skin diseases, asthma and infectious diseases is very high because of the dumping ground nearby,” said Dr Rahil Kamar, who heads the Govandi-Trombay Private Practitioners’ Association.