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Formally inaugurated on July 7, 1963 by then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), in the last 55 year has treated millions of patients from all across the country. The first batch of postgraduates was admitted in January 1963. The institute is the first institute in the country to initiate many DM and M Ch courses as well as PhD programmes in clinical sciences. The Institute has nearly 490 faculty members, 1,100 resident doctors, 2,663 nurses and 464 nursing students, and 420 PhD and paramedical students.Long queues of patients and their attendants at OPDs, patients on stretchers and on wheelchairs under the open sky, relatives making a beeline for free food served outside by the city based philanthropists, human bodies jostling for space in the dingy shelter rooms, smelling hospital toilets, parks and lawns dotted with makeshift dwelling units for the countless patients and their attendants-welcome to the premises of India’s one of the most premier health institutes, Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh.Being the only institute of its kind in upper north India, a whopping 25 lakh patients visited different OPDs of the PGIMER and nearly 90,000 patients got admitted for treatment last year, a huge number which in itself stresses the need for massive upgradation of existing facilities in the hospital to ensure the patients have the complete ease of accessing treatment. Academically the PGIMER may excel in more ways than one, but the patient satisfaction remains an area of concern, which needs to be take care of effectively.What makes the going tougher for the PGIMER is not only the thin presence of presence of overworked junior doctors and wearied senior nursing staff. To ensure that they are not overstressed and patient care is not affected, the Central government must provide extra man power to the hospital sooner the better. The hospital which has an OPD attendance of around 8,000 to 11,000 patients per day cannot afford staff crunch, a whosoever enter the premises carries the hope of getting the best treatment and if their hope is shattered, then the values and ethos for which PGIMER has been created get diluted.
Ram Singh from Ludhiana, whose wife was undergoing treatment at Pulmonary Medicine and Chest Department, had applied for a private room after seeing the rush in general ward but did not get it even after 15 days. These rooms are not for common people and offered to those persons who have some VIP contacts-is the general refrain in the PGIMER’s corridors of power. “The number of rooms is less and people who are applying on daily basis are more. It is difficult for us to adjust them,” says PGIMER Director Dr Jagat Ram. He added that some private rooms would come up as “we completed the work of 250 bedded hospitals.”Ravinder Malik from Ludhiana who is undergoing treatment for his broken leg at the PGIMER, said: “Despite the fact that each single day, the hospital premises gives a view of patients lying on stretchers, relatives huddled up nearby, the stink of disease and medication inter-mingling to form a smell so foul that an otherwise healthy person can even fall unconscious.”
DOCTORS SUFFER TOO
The situation in hospitals is made worse by the thin presence of overworked junior doctors and wearied senior nursing staff. The condition of the hospital OTs is not very good. Several times the Faculty Association has complained regarding this to the PGIMER high officials but till now nothing has been done. While doing surgeries the roof of these OTs start leaking during rains and even sometimes doctors have to delay surgeries.One major problem which hospital is facing now is that all the super specialty faculty which had ample years of experience got retired and after their retirement, they shift themselves to other big corporate hospitals. The institute does not have any plan to retain them for a few more years so that in the meantime those who are working in the second line get more training and needful exposure.
The emergency of the hospital remains always overcrowded as the patients admitted here at any particular time is five times more than its capacity. For the last 30 years, the expansion of emergency wing has not been done. Almost three years back the Trauma Centre was built which took a load of patients who had a serious road or other accidents. PGI has made a proposal to set up an OPD block at Sarangpur where land has been allotted by Chandigarh Administration, but the work is yet to start. The hospital administration has formed a triage system to tackle the problem of crowd in the emergency by starting taking only those patients who are critically ill.The visitors to the emergency section have to face another problem which arises out of the space crunch for parking. The institute does not have a proper parking space near the emergency. Although work on building a multi-level parking is going on, the project is likely to take years to be completed. The attendants of patients have to run here and there to park their vehicles after dropping them at the entrance gate.
FEAR OF LOSING LIFE
The critical patients who are admitted here do not get ventilators as the institute does not have sufficient staff to put on these machines. According to the information, around 10 persons are needed for one ventilator but Union Health Ministry is not giving the approval to fill various posts. Even the hospital administration is not allowed to keep these persons on contract. The patient woes do not end here. They do not get shelter at the PGIMER while having treatment. There was one sarai earlier catering to the needs of poor people but now it has been demolished and the work on new sarai is going on. Presently the gurdwara inside the hospital is helping these people by providing food and space.
RAY OF HOPE
While patients are admitted to the hospital, poor and needy relatives for whom buying daily meals is not an option, make a beeline for free food served outside by the city based philanthropists. This, perhaps, is the only good thing and a ray of hope for the lakhs of below poverty line people doing rounds of the city’s hospitals. They do not have to sleep with empty stomachs at night. Really, visitors to PGIMER are sandwiched between hope and despair!DAILY POST SENIOR CORRESPONDENT
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