Wednesday, November 03, 2004

L'Hôpital and expiry dates

This is one of those 'giving back to the society' things. We were supposed to do one consultancy-like work free of cost to anyone in and around the hill asks us for help. This is all done by one of the passive-aggressive profs. We, a group of 3/4ths of a dozen were assigned to help a health-care and covalesence centre which I will refer to as 'En Aaspathiri'. We were supposed to visit the place and suggest improvements.

When we visited the place for the first time, it looked so similar to a major railway station in India - chaos reigned the place, benches were covered with human doodoo; wherever there was a corner, the public had marked their territory through tobacco spit and/or human weewee. The patients were the affected lot. They were generally those people who cannot afford to go to other health-care centres which were costlier but much cleaner and efficient than this place. Patients were lying around everywhere, in the corridor, outside the centre, generally anywhere shade was available.

The patients' relatives were made to run all over the place by the 'courteous' people you would call 'wardboys' (whose wives I would call aunty). According to insider sources, this place reeks of apathy, corruption and insubordination, but runs quite well. Even today I saw a poor woman, wearing a well worn saree, tiny sticks for ear-rings and nose-ring, crying to a social work coordinator about how she was conned off of 100 bucks by a tout, which will be two days' salary for her husband. Me and another guy personally spent 25 minutes trying to pay a bill of around Rs. 100 while the guys behind the counter (including one woman) started fighting verbally with a patient's relative who was standing to pay the bill. The battle was in only one counter but the other three cashiers too jumped in to support their colleague; the power of unions. There were union posters/bills stuck over all the 'information' boards in the centre. If management guys could be disoriented by the layout and the lack of information boards, imagine the plight of the mostly illiterate poor patrons.

Outside, a few pigs were running all over the place. When I pointed this out to some guy, he just said as a matter of fact that they were the 'cleaners' of the place, and they do wonderful work keeping the place clean, even though they might appear dirty. If they keep the place clean, then it is ok to spread enchepalitis and other diseases!

When were assigned to this (using an industry term) 'project'. understood at first that we have to improve this almost-charity centre and make it compete it with the non-public centres. However, there was a small confusion in this. I do not know what exactly happened, but again, according to insider sources, we were told by EA chief that we were supposed to improve the quality and its image only and not to become a competition to the non-public centres. We tried to do according to the now required objectives. The prof thought we were trying to do some gol-mal and HIS till-now-passive aggressiveness reared its head and we were summoned for a meeting through email.

Some of us were in a 3 hour class when the email came and only a couple went to see HIM. When HE was explained about our absence and the class, HE is reported to have quipped that 'even this was very important.'

We were very enthusiastic about this 'project' before we started. The morale was high as we were assigned on a mission to clean up this dinosaur. Once we saw the place, we understood that this could not be done in 6 days spread over half as many fortnights. One guy in my 'team' remarked that 'even a company like McKinsey would take atleast 6 months to do this project.' Well, I think he was off the mark by another 6 months.

During the project today, I smelled the stench of death for the first time. Have you ever had a rat caught in your cupboard and had died there? Imagine ten such rats packed in a biscuit jar. It was either the smell of death or the guy was really really sick. He (what is the past-tense of he?) was laid on a stretcher in the middle of a very narrow corridor.

I had only seen a handful of deaths in my entire life; starting with the college guy upstairs who fell down two storeys and did not survive, the lady opposite our house who 'bathed in fire' after a fight with her husband who tried to save her; he too did not survive to see the second day; my neighbour's father (my friend's grandpa), my own grandpa, my brother's best friend's father. I had seen quite a few accidents too, and many 'terminations' on television. Today's incident bought back all these memories.

What were different about today were the smell and the fact that even though he was surrounded by his family and friends, they were simply chatting and one laughed too. Did I miss something there?


Anonymous said...

So..what did u finally frame a sloution for this hospital?Will u take steps to 'improve' the hospital or just u visited for the heck of doing the project?
reply back.......

Lumbergh-in-training said...

don't know buddy! with just a couple of visits and a fortnight remaining, it will be just a rush-job. the prof's intentions are good, but it is stretching it way too far when we have to do a mammoth project in such a short time.