LD Hospital Srinagar

Srinagar: Even as the government does not charge money from patients here at Kashmir’s lone maternity Lalla Ded Hospital, but people are forced to grease the palms of employees for almost every single service right from getting admitted to discharge from the hospital.

The plaques installed on the walls of the hospital reading “Don’t give or take bribe; it’s an offence” are nothing more than a prop used by the top brass of hospital administration to comfort themselves.

The unfortunate reality is that people have to pay even for the trivial things like getting the bed-sheet of their patient changed – not to talk of other things.

And since this hospital is about new-births, so people have to shell out big money before actually they are handed over their newborns.

“Newborn isn’t handed over to the family until they pay. And this is not the end — everything is to be paid for, whether it is shifting a patient from operation theatre to recovery room or from recovery room to some other ward. 

People have to pay for dressings, getting rooms cleaned up and also for services which are ideally taken as given in hospitals,” narrated a group of attendants when this reporter visited the hospital during past few days.

A woman from Uttar Pradesh, around 1400 kms from here, who was visiting Kashmir along with her husband Mohammad Qasim, got admitted at Lalla Ded Hospital when she developed labour pain.

Qasim said that from the day his wife was admitted in the hospital to the time she was discharged after giving birth to a daughter through caesarean section, he ended up paying more than Rs 7000 as ‘chai’ — a name given to illegal gratification that is sought by the hospital staff from the patients and their attendants.

Qasim, a first-time father, said. “It shouldn’t have happened. It must be stopped!”

Even those patients, who do not visit this hospital for delivering babies but for undergoing emergency surgeries are also forced to pay bribes.

“Our patient went through a critical surgery and she was writhing in pain but that didn’t stop employees from demanding money. In our four day stay at LD, we paid more than Rs 2000,” said Fahmeeda, an attendant.

Irshad Mohammad, one of the relatives of a patient who delivered a female baby, said that his family also had to bribe the employees, fearing they might face problems if resisted this wrongdoing.

He said that poor people from far-off places are hurt the most as they usually do not have money to pay. “How can a poor family satisfy the hunger of corrupt employees?”

When contacted, Medical Superintendent Dr Shabir Siddiqui said, “People are not coming forward. Until they complain we can’t curb corruption.”

He said, “We have taken many measures including installation of CCTVs and complaint boxes.”

Dr Siddiqui also said that while making rounds “I ask attendants outside labour room that this hospital is a government hospital and everything is free of cost here”.

This is indeed the problem. Talking about these cosmetic measures in their cozy rooms the administrators believe their job is done. But the reality is that they are not doing anything practical to root out corruption.

“People don’t come forward to complain” makes a good assertion for media consumption, but fact of the matter is that no action is taken even after formal complaints are lodged with the authorities!

© Kashmir Images