At the antepartum ward in Gurgaon city’s sole civil hospital, 33-year-old Neelam is sharing a bed with two heavily pregnant women. Earlier last week, Neelam gave birth to a premature baby at Sohna civil hospital from where she was referred to the Gurgaon hospital after her condition deteriorated. “The baby is in an incubation room… At night, I lie down with my legs hanging so the other two women can be accommodated as well,” she said, gesturing at the 12-bed ward, tightly packed with pregnant women, new mothers, and their kin.
Neelam’s plight echoes that of several other patients who are compelled to share their modest hospital beds with other women, thanks to overcrowding and lack of infrastructure on the premises.
According to the health department, the urban part of Gurgaon has 21 urban PHCs and a polyclinic apart from the civil hospital. Earlier called the Maternal and Child Health Hospital, the premises started functioning as a civil hospital in the last few years after, owing to infrastructures issues, the Civil Lines hospital was demolished and all services shifted to the Sector 10 institution.
While Haryana has 71 civil hospitals in its 22 districts, Gurgaon has three, including one each in Sohna and Pataudi.
For women like Neelam, there is really no choice. “This is my fifth child. Two died earlier, and this one is very weak…Sohna hospital had better beds and wards, but here we have better doctors and machines,” said Neelam.
Not far from Neelam is Chakarpur resident Shefali, sharing a bed with Anita whose daughter recently gave birth to a pair of twins. “I came with my daughter (who is admitted to the labour room). The hospital is 18 km from my home, and we can’t afford to go back and forth every day,” said Shefali, who works as a labourer. Said Anita, “I asked them (the hospital staff) that we have two babies, and we need a bed for my daughter, but when this is the state of the entire ward, what can be done?”
On the other side of the first-floor gynaecology department is a post-operative ward with 13 beds. The post-natal ward, on the opposite side, has 20 beds. Adjacent to this is the septic ward with six beds. All three wards had at least half-a-dozen beds occupied by at least two women.
On the verandah, Deeksha’s mother-in-law Mamta sits with a newborn girl. “I am out with my daughter’s three-day-old granddaughter. She suffers from jaundice and we had to let her soak in the sunlight. Last night, I was squatting on the floor with the child on my chest because my daughter had to share the bed with another woman. On another bed, there were three women yesterday. I fought with the nurses…” she said.
Compared to Panchkula, which is the administrative hub of the state, the health care in Gurgaon is floundering, said a former civil surgeon, on the condition of anonymity. With three hospitals, two CHCs and eight PHCs, Panchkula has a robust healthcare infrastructure accompanied by 33 private hospitals. “The condition in Gurgaon Civil Hospital is far from the ideal setup, it does not even reach average,” he said.
Gurgaon civil surgeon Virender Yadav said that 100 admissions are made every day while 2,000 OPD patients visit the hospital. The hospital has a cardiology department, three X-ray machines, a dialysis unit, CT/MRI scan arrangements, four operation theatres, and a four-bed makeshift ICU at the medical ward apart from a cardiac ICU with 12 beds. A senior officer said funds were awaited for a high-dependency unit (HDU) with six beds. In the basement of the hospital is the general ward doubling up as the dengue ward. Though Gurgaon has not seen a drastic rise in cases this season, the ward was seen tightly packed with accident victims, dengue patients and others lodged together.
A doctor at the hospital, on the condition of anonymity, admitted that there were infrastructural issues, including lack of beds, limited facilities at the ICU, overcrowding and limited accessibility for people from across the city. “There is a massive problem of overcrowding here. Around 30 deliveries take place in this hospital every day. This becomes a problem when all we have are 170 beds. Also, though there are four operation theatres and four beds with ventilators, the facilities at the ICU are subpar, and there is no burns unit,” he said. However, he is hopeful that a new facility, work for which is underway, could reduce this burden to some extent.
“It is envisaged to have 32 beds in the ICU in two wings, along with 100 beds, new OTs and labour rooms,” he said. Located just a few feet away from the hospital, a five-story building is under construction. However, the Civil Surgeon said that the construction at the 100-bed facility, which started in 2019, has crossed many deadlines.
At a meeting recently, attended by Gurgaon MP and Union Minister for State Rao Inderjit Singh, discussions were held on setting specific timeframes for development projects, including the relocation of the Gurgaon Civil Hospital. The government hospital to be rebuilt in Civil Lines was initially planned to have 400 beds but the plan was later changed to accommodate 700 beds.
Earlier this year, the plan saw another round of revision. “This shows poor planning. If they had conducted proper studies, they would have known what was feasible,” said the former civil surgeon.
The blame game is of little comfort to women like Neelam, whose mother and mother-in-law are having to sleep on the verandah of the hospital as they don’t have the means to travel from Sohna everyday to keep their daughter company. “Sometimes, it gets very stuffy here as there is little ventilation and these many people,” she said, pointing at the crowded ward.