07 June 2012

Take me to a ‘Government Hospital’ any day!

A couple of months ago, my little girl had to be taken to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital.  Like most little girls (or boys) who have older siblings, she too wanted to do everything her Akki did.  She can do certain things, but not all.  Like climbing the Ambarella tree.  She fell.  Hit her head, probably on a protruding root, got bruised.  She was feeling dizzy. Vomited. 

It was a Saturday.  We took her to the OPD.  The doctor checked her out and prescribed a scan.  We were anxious, naturally.  We had to wait outside the Radiography room until the technician returned from wherever he had disappeared to.  Every passing minute raised the agony level.   The results however were not scary. We were told she could be taken home, but advised to keep her under close observation.  We were relieved. 
Last week we had to re-visit.  It was the older girl this time.  She hadn’t attended school in 3 days due to suffering from a persistent fever.  A blood test revealed that her platelet count had dropped to 99,000.  A doctor friend advised: ‘Take her immediately to Lady Ridgeway’.   We did.

The reports were shown to the doctor in attendance.  She checked her out.  Examined the reports.  She was wheeled out to Ward 3.  We followed.  There was some paper work to attend to.  Then an agonizing time waiting for the ward doctor to examine the little girl.  The place was full of other anxious parents (mothers mostly) along with their sick children.  Crowded.  Busy. 
There weren’t enough beds, so our 11 year old daughter had to share a bed (about twice the size of a baby’s cot and too short for her to stretch herself out) with another little girl about 2-3 years of age.  The little girl’s condition worsened and she was shifted to the ICU.  Our little one was there for almost 2 days.  Tests were done, reports issued and examined.  There was, my wife said, continues, i.e. round-the-clock surveillance of all the patients, with or without the support of the attending mothers.  Food and liquid intake was taken note of, the amount of urine passed measured and recorded.  A change in the condition of each and every patient was immediately detected and necessary action taken. 

It was a full ward.  Well, an overflowing one, one might say.  Noisy: simply because there were so many and since all the patients were kids, mostly in discomfort and ever-ready to bawl.   Given the numbers it was not difficult to figure out how hard the hospital staff, from consultant to doctor to nurse to attendant to janitor had to work.  Two days is too short to make sweeping statements and anyway what I saw was limited to morning, lunch-time and evening visits.  My wife however, a Sociologist by training, could speak with more authority on the subject, for she was there, with hardly any sleep watching over the child and what was happening around her. 
The following is the gist of her observations:  Given the number of patients and the number of people either attending to children or just visiting, the cleanliness is amazing.  The hospital staff is extremely competent.  They may appear dispassionate and even brusque, but they clearly know what needs to be done. 

Sure, it’s not pretty girls in pretty uniforms in pretty rooms we are talking about.  We are not talking about smiling and courteous consultants.  We are talking about illness and medical care.   Not the frills.  And not squalor either.  It’s about excellent service under trying circumstances and with limited resources.   Most important: FREE OF CHARGE. 
My father spent three days in a private hospital.  I know that I can’t afford to have him spend a similar period of time in such a facility.  He is visiting my sister in the USA and had to be hospitalized again.  My sister, having got to know that my daughter was hospitalized, sent me an email: ‘Hope Mitsi is looking better. Better to keep her in hospital until she is in the clear. Let me know if you need any help financially. Now that we are reconciled to being completely out of our league w/ regard to finding the funds to pay for Appatchi's medical bills, we can at least help where we can help!’

I concluded, ‘I am blessed beyond belief to live in Sri Lanka’.  I resolved: if ever I need to be hospitalized, I want to be taken to a public health facility, even if overcrowding forces the authorities to put me on the floor. 

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6 comments:

Fazli Sameer said...

I spent 6 whole months in bed, from Jun to Dec 1963 in a Ward at the Colombo Eye Hospital, after having suffered a retinal detachment in my left eye suffered by a sporting accident during the lunch interval at Royal. They did 3 surgeries (eye surgeon Dr R Pararajasingham) during this period and I was confined to bed with both my eyes closed for the whole term. All the three ops were unsuccessful and I lost my sight in the left eye completely. When they finally sent me home on Dec 24, 1963, I was unable to walk as my blood circulation had gone haywire cos of lack of exercise. The authorities, eye surgeon, house officer, nurses, and the rest of the medics who saw me on a daily basis, sometimes twice a day,never felt the need to prescribe physiotherapy during my stay in bed.I had to be wheeled home in a chair and suffered ever since, even until today with my circulation. I can write volumes on the 6 months I spent in that hell-hole and all the abuse that went in under the covers. It is the most despicable period in my life at the early age of only 15.

Shaik Ahamath said...

Dear Fazli Sameer, I am very sorry about your experience. I hope your's was an exception because my observation at Kalubowila Hospital was very much different. My nephew was taken there with pains in his stomach and was quickly diagnosed as appendicitis and operated upon the same day. While there, I found the nurses and the consultant extremely courteous and helpful, and all for free. It was 2009 and I struck up conversations with some of the wounded soldiers and every one of them was in good spirits despite horrific injuries. I have no doubt the excellent service they'd received had been a contributory factor.

sajic said...

Fazli, I'm really very sorry that you had to go through this trauma.But this can happen anywhere-in poorly maintained free govt facilities, or in expensive private hospitals. My husband went into a very well known private heart-care hospital in Johannesburg for multiple bypass surgery in 1990. We flew in from Harare.The op was performed by a well known surgeon. It was successful-I was told.From rhe ICU he went into a private ward. He developed a high fever. Usual, I was told. A blonde, blue-eyed physiotherapist came in-a capable looking girl. She asked my husband to sit up. He couldnt. She tried to lift him. he groaned in pain. She stamped her foot and walked out.I spoke to the doctor.'the physios are not controlled by the hospital,' he said,'they are a separate unit!'
The girl never came back.Treatment was only continued by our GP in Harare a fortnight later!

UDITHA WIJESENA said...

Without free medical facilities and free education facilities, Sri Lanka would be a totally different place altogether.

P.N. Gamage said...

I had both my kids at the de Soyza Maternity Hospital.
Normal births.
Very good attention.

Of course that was some thirty odd years ago.
Even later my son who fell from a uguressa tree when he was about 14 years of age in my absence from the country received timely treatment from the National hospital and his spleen was removed at an emergency operation.

During the growing years of my kids it was always the Lady Ridgeway or the National Hopsital for treatment.

Hats off to our State Hospitals.

Ramzeen said...

My wife had our "bada pissa" son at the Castle Street Hospital. The abuse the attendants served out to mothers in labour was shocking she says (this was 19 years ago). They would say things like "aah you're screaming now, how was it when that job was being done?" etc. This could have been to poor training unlike now. I agree with Malinda. The "Nona waattuwa" is a fine place. I know it because my grand daughter had to be warded there for some ocular correction under Dr. Irugalbandara. The service was so good that my son-in-law gifted 2 Pureit water filters to the ward.