Friday, Jan 08, 2021 08:00 [IST]
Last Update: Friday, Jan 08, 2021 02:29 [IST]
A hospital is where healing is expected to happen. Ironically, often in a country like ours, even hospitals need healing. The new STNM Hospital at Socheygang is one hospital that needs immediate healing. Healing from its deteriorating condition due to public and administrative negligence. The reckless misuse by its users have turned this new hospital building into crumbling infrastructure far too soon – a miracle only we in this part of the globe are (ill)capable of.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on my Facebook page on the ever worsening condition of the brand new STNM hospital. I posted a few pictures of the dirty surroundings, the hallway in level four with puddles, paan spit on the walls, broken push buttons on the lifts, water leaking in the basement parking and dirt-ridden stairs and lifts. The response reciprocating my concern was overwhelming - except for one who asked me to ‘start cleaning myself so that others would join me’.
The summation of the overall comments is simply this: the pathetic condition of such a new and grand hospital is the result of a combination of administrative negligence and a complete lack of ownership and civic sense on the part of people. An assistant professor and highly engaged citizen commented on my post saying that it is the quintessential local public attitude towards government (sarkari) property. A gentleman wrote that the Rogi Kalyan Samiti headed by the Lok Sabha MP has been formed but he opined that the hospital situation needs a greater commitment on the part of the government.
“A lack of civic sense is in our genes” – a gentleman, senior doctor by profession wrote. Many parents in our country teach children to pee in public places, outside the house and so on. That’s how we ‘toilet train’ them and when these children grow up, they perform as well as they are trained. Let us face it, civic sense is a cultural thing. Is there anything that we can do to change or improve it? I am beginning to feel that fines are the only way to change public behaviour. The hospital authorities must come up with stringent rules and fines. However, the implementation of such rules demand diligence, patience and consistence. One month or even one year will not change our behaviors and habits formed over a lifetime. Singapore is an example of how ‘fining’ can change ‘civic behaviour’. Most of the fast advancing countries in Asia like Japan and China are big on ‘fining’. Singapore went on to becoming one of the cleanest countries in the world. Due its strict implementation of fines on littering, spitting, peeing in public and even chewing gum, it is also called a “fine city”. Fine, if strategized well, policed diligently and implemented consistently can fix the twin issues of a “lack of civic sense and a sense of ownership”. It calls for visionary and dedicated hospital management leadership.
Another concern raised was about the pitiful, almost unusable condition of the toilets in the new STNM hospital. It is a crying shame that even hospitals have such poorly maintained toilets. The administration must be blamed for the lack of innovative and stricter methods to maintain toilets as much as people must be blamed for the acute lack of basic civic sense. But ultimately, shifting the blame endlessly will not clean one speck of dirt from these horribly filthy toilets.
I found one suggestion from Mr. Rinzino Lepcha fascinatingly promising. A gentleman wondered if leasing the hospital toilets to Sulabh could partially fix the problem as they keep urinal pots free flowing by removing cigarette butts from them. This is from a man who has the vast experience of running NGOs for years.
Banning smoking in lavatories is an absolute must. Installing smoke detectors would be essential and fining heavily would solve the issue once and for all. Dirty surroundings, dirty hallways, dirty stairs, dirty lifts, stinking toilets and smoking in toilets - what a horribly depressing and self-contradictory picture of a hospital which is meant to be the hallmark of cleanliness and healthy behaviour! When the hospital itself is sick, how fair it is to expect effective healthcare services from it? The most dreadful question that I can think of is this – if this is the condition of a multi-crore hospital within less than a year of its inauguration, what will it look like in ten years and beyond? Many reciprocated my view that perhaps we, as a society, do not deserve better facilities than what we have made them to be. However, self-condemnation without a willingness and determination to change is the mark of a declining culture. Given that civic sense and a sense of ownership are not going to grow overnight, the onus is on the hospital authorities to make a difference. There are different ways to do so. The authorities are entrusted with power to serve people and they will be fully justified when they use that power to redeem this crumbling infrastructure and make it more useful for people.
“Dirty surroundings, dirty hallways, dirty stairs, dirty lifts, stinking toilets and smoking in toilets - what a horribly depressing and self-contradictory picture of a hospital which is meant to be the hallmark of cleanliness and healthy behaviour! When the hospital itself is sick, how fair it is to expect effective healthcare services from it?”