The sight of bone-weary people, some taking a break from attending to a relative, others awaiting their turn at what seems to have become a community water tap, and yet others cooking small meals on make-shift choolahs, outside Aundh Chest Hospital is not uncommon.
The reason? A dharmshala which was constructed in 2002 to house 50 people has been defunct for the last five years, rendering relatives of patients who come here from far-flung places a hapless lot.
|Pics: Manoj Bidkar
|The locked dharamshala at Aundh Chest Hospital
In the largest state-run hospital that offers specialised treatment for TB, authorities are only to keen to underplay the lacuna. When questioned, medical superintendent of the hospital, Dr V A Shinde, said, “We are aware of the issue, and have had a few correspondences with the Public Works Department (PWD) recently for the renovation of the dharamshala, but have yet to hear from them.
We will communicate with them again.” The last batch of correspondence was carried out six months ago.
Dr Sharad Sabnis, joint director of State government’s Public Health Department (tuberculosis and leprosy) said, “I am not sure where the dharamshala is exactly located, but I will try to understand why it has been closed for so many years.”
• Relatives of patients use the hospital premises to wait, cook food, perform their daily ablutions
Sabnis’s statement is ironical given that three years ago, he served as the principal of the Family Welfare and Training Centre, located within the premises of Aundh Chest Hospital.
Vikram Kamble has been here since the last ten months, accompanying his wife from Mumbai. He said, “The situation of female relatives of patients is pitiful.
They are forced to sleep on the verandah or outside the hospital even during the monsoons, and have to use the men’s bathrooms.” Another relative Sangita Sonavane said, “To avoid embarrassment we are forced to wake up early in the morning and carry out our daily ablutions in the open premises.”
Sunanda Pharande, from Vashi, sleeps alongside many other women in the ward as they feel the most secure here. “We do not like hospital food so I bring some stock from from home.
Since there is no facility for cooking, we are forced to depend on unhygienic and cheaply available food from nearby hotels. If I could use the kitchen at the dharamshala I would make fresh food for my daughter who is admitted here.”
The 120-bed Aundh Chest Hospital is a single-point of reference for many private practitioners as well because of free of cost availability of residential premises and an exclusive Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) TB treatment facility.
It is mandatory for at least one relative of every patient to be here till the completion of the TB course. And hence the absence of the dharamshala facility has added to the helplessness of the relatives of the patients.
Also, the close proximity with the patients exposes them to infection, which the authorities seem oblivious to. People come here from Mumbai, Satara, Thane, Sangli, Solapur and other remote areas of Pune district. The dharamshala —divided into two parts for men and women — is equipped with kitchen, toilets and bathrooms.
► I am not sure where the dharamshala is exactly located, but I will try to understand why it has been closed for so many years
- Dr Sharad Sabnis, Jt Director, State govt’s Public Health Dept (tuberculosis and leprosy)