Meerut, Uttar Pradesh: Days after a young mother spent a night outside a government hospital in Meerut with her daughter’s body, since she could not afford a hearse, NDTV visited the city’s two biggest government hospitals to find out what the public healthcare system has to offer to people like her.
Irfana earns Rs 150 a day. It was impossible for her to afford Rs 2,500 for a hearse.
Lying outside the Medical College Hospital, 37-year-old Chandra Bhanu was no better off. The man, who still had a catheter attached and obviously unwell, has been lying on the pavement for a week along with his 65-year-old mother and 10-year-old son. A cobbler by profession, he did not even have Rs 200 to hire a van and go home.
He told NDTV that ambulance service was reserved for only incoming patients and pregnant women. The white vans lining the kerb near Chandra Bhanu, ostensibly for released patients, demanded a minimum of Rs 1200 – an amount most people visiting the hospital cannot afford.
At the PL District Hospital, the second largest government facility, a hearse van was gathering dust. This was the hospital outside which Irfana spent that night.
Four months ago, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had announced a scheme to provide hearses to state-run hospitals. Arun K Sinha, state Health Secretary, said it is an “ongoing process” and the government has released 65 vans across the state.
“The benefits of the scheme have not reached the ground level. We use the van off and on by paying for the diesel and the driver ourselves,” said Dr Sunil Gupta, Superintendent-in-chief, PL District Hospital.
At the blood bank, where Irfana was allegedly asked for Rs 5,000, the attendants said they only require a donor of any blood group and Rs 400. The money can be waived for the impoverished patients only by the top hospital officials – but even at 11 am, there was none to be found.
Vibhu Sahni, Superintendent-in-chief of the hospital, said they had no record of Irfana, but an inquiry committee has been formed after the media reports.
At the very basic level – getting a bed at the hospital – did not appear easy.
Zoya, a 24-year-old domestic help, who came to get two relatives admitted got a permission slip after four hours of running from pillar to post. At the ward, the nurse-in-charge screamed at her, “I have just 25 beds and 35 people. How will I give you a bed?”
The hospital has 250 beds for the 350 patients it was catering to. The doctors asked her to request patients to share a bed. No one agreed.