They came for treatment, but are now running stalls outside Chandigarh’s PGI

From selling eggs to doing petty jobs, the patients and their relatives never went back home after the hospital bills left them without money.

punjab Updated: Dec 26, 2017 09:38 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
PGIMER,Chandigarh,PGI
(Sikander Singh/HT)

Increasing the financial burden on families, high out-of-pocket health care expenses has left many homeless. One can find many such examples right outside the Post graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER).

On a recent visit, the HT Correspondent came across many people, who had left their home towns several years ago for a treatment at PGIMER. But could never go back as the treatment left them penniless.

As luck would have it these people started earning their livelihood by selling fruits, eggs, tea etc outside the hospital.

Roshan Lal, 51 left his Kaithal house in 2003 for PGIMER, Chandigarh. “My father was a heart patient and as his condition deteriorated, we rushed him to PGI. I could neither save my father nor my ancestral home.” “Since then I did not go back. How can I? I took loan of ₹7 lakh from the village people for the treatment,” he said. He is now selling tobacco products outside the PGIMER and has taken a room on rent in Naya Gaon with his family.

‘You won’t remove my stall?’

Originally from Muzzafarpur, Niranjan Kumar’s dream of being an army officer came crashing down with his health. Still full of hope, he sells tea outside PGI to afford his treatment. Four-years-ago, while he was preparing for Class-10 exams his health deteriorated. “My body swelled and I was suffering from severe stomach ache. Doctors asked me to rush to PGI. Here they put me on medication, which I could not afford,” Niranjan,24, said.

The medicines cost him ₹1,000 per month. “Initially I did not take medicines as prescribed but would buy painkillers for the pain,” he said. Meanwhile, he tried searching for jobs but many refused knowing that he is a kidney patient.

“Two months ago, a cop helped me with ₹2,000 and I set up a tea stall. Now, I can afford my medication,” he said. When asked where he sleeps, he pointed towards a filthy area next to the wall. Fearing that his stall will be removed due to the news article, he asked thrice, “You won’t remove my stall, right?”

‘Treatment is good but time consuming’

Anita Pal, 46, came to PGI from Muzzafarnagar in 2001 for her tuberculosis treatment. She settled here only as she could not afford the travelling expense. “The treatment here is good but is time consuming,” Anita Pal said. “I told my husband that we do petty jobs in Muzaffarnagar as well. At we could save money working here,” she said. Anita takes pride in saying that she was the first person to sell eggs outside PGI.

Basanti Kumari, 28, from Mohali is a mother of three. Kumari has been living on the PGI premises from last seven years. She spends her nights in the parks of the hospital and days on the roads outside it.

She sells gutkha, biddi and other products from 4am to 8:30pm outside the PGI and earns ₹150 - 200 per day. To survive the winter, all she has is one stole, broken slipper, and a blanket. Her biggest and only worry is getting the right treatment for her 9-year-old son, undergoing treatment at the neurology department.

She is illiterate and has no support from her alcoholic husband. The children spend their day playing in grounds and watching other kids going school. When asked if they ever want to go school, a bright smile lit their face and both nodded their heads.

But the helpless mother only wishes for a room to live with her three children and get the treatment done. Education is nowhere on her priority list.

First Published: Dec 26, 2017 09:18 IST