OUTSIDE THE GMC EARLY MORNING… PWD work of re-alignment of road is still going on and in the evenings and night in dim lighting, it’s difficult to negotiate one’s way in the vicinity of the hospital. Urgently needed: finishing and cleaning up with spaces allotted to servicing folk outside the hospital. (PIC BY TARA NARAYAN)

By Tara Narayan

Eating is Fun / Eating is Yuck! – A variety food column

MORE TIME spent with a patient at the GMC and more food for thought this week too. GOA’S Goa Medical College & Hospital (GMC) has become like as second home to me and I have seen it evolve over the years from a run-down eerie bhootbangla of old to today’s more built-up complex of wards, departments and growing number of blocks linked by corridors…takes a lot of walking around despite the lifts old and new.
Hey, I love the old GMC in bits and pieces and have never minded walking around to take pleasure in the pocket garden spaces scattered here and there, some a treat and some totally unkempt with visitors and patients never thinking twice before dumping their litter here, there and everywhere. Despite the gracious bins for wet and dry waste put up on every floor for use now! We are litterbugs big-time and that’s an attitude which needs to change today and not tomorrow. Some things change, some attitudes in the mind don’t.
Painting is currently going on in the orthopaedic and surgery men and women’s wards and a brighter air is replacing old foetid smells of government hospital. I haven’t done much walking around in the outside compound ground where the supporting services of chemists, canteen and sit out cafeteria, Sai temple/ Vailankkani chapel are located but will one of these days.

But the indoor original GMC canteen is made over and is now a very pleasant place to sip a cup of my favourite lemon black tea, but I couldn’t find my old friendly doctors to take time out to share a cup of tea with me. The menu is vastly improved too. Nothing to complain about if you don’t get food from home! In fact, I would say this hospital breakfast and lunch should be made available to all including hospital staff if they want it on a regular basis, much of the home food we eat is inferior.
Of course, everything is run by Sodexo big-time and Ecoclean staffers…although there is the usual shortages of pillows and to my amusement one morning, I found myself appreciating one of the starchy clean bed-sheets of the patient’s bed, there was such a neat darn patch on it, whoever did the job has done a perfect job. I mean who bothers to darn and repair things nowadays? I had to take a click of this bed-sheet, one of my most precious. Who engages in such old world pass-times nowadays in our use and chuck culture? A sister on duty smiled and told me “Oh, we have a tailoring unit and these patching up work is done there!”
Coming to more food talk, I must say patients can be an arrogant lot and oftentimes it’s hateful to see the trays going back with food barely touched….as far as I can see the food is perfectly edible (a far cry from the old days) so why the wastage? I suspect the Sodexo boys know which patient is not interested in food for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then they do their own trade-offs of the food if someone – a patient’s attendant or even staffer – want a choosy cherry patient’s rejected boiled egg or pau left on trays!
Why no spoon with tray? I asked a cheerful Sodexo boy Omkar one morning and he explained, tomorrow patient will get one spoon. No, not fine stainless steel spoon but like disposable old fashioned ice-cream woody spoons…to hell with spoons, why can’t we wash hand and eat with hand, fingers? Forget fancy spoons of stainless steel from home! Actually, I did take my patient two of them from home but somewhere along the way they got lost and I couldn’t get to the bottom of the mystery of my varnished spoons…that’s fine with me but had to replace them for the patient with instructions to see they don’t get lost this time! Or please learn to eat with your fingers and hands, that’s why the good Lord has given us hands, nobody comes into this world with stainless spoons tucked under their arms. Never mind this patient’s dirty look!
ONE thing I refuse to do and that is take food from home in plastic containers with plastic spoons. I’m a stainless steel lover and wash and keep my tiffin dibba spanking clean. I will not eat and drink out of plastic ware at home or out of home if I can help it. Therefore every now and then I lose my stainless steel this and that…everybody likes SS and think that I have too many in my household anyway and it’s okay if some get lost along life’s drifting ways.

NEAR THE GMC WORKSHOP: A grand peepal tree struggling to survive as the season changes and new leaves shoot out, what a lot of junk dumped at its feet or so to speak. I’m sure even the guards here who sit managing ropes to guide people and vehicles coming in and out don’t enjoy this sight!

Life is mostly a lost and found adventure anyway. So my tooing and froing from home to GMC and back continues till my patient’s health issues are resolved, my hubby actually, so I give a damn or two, okay. The GMC grounds host a lot of gorgeous trees and I catch up with the many apte trees, frangipani, rain trees and this around I spied a gorgeous banyan and peepal with its new baby fresh green leaves fluttering frantically in the breeze…(sigh) but what is all that junk strewn at their base? Please remove! I hope no more hospital blocks come up in this heritage GMC complex and instead the garden grounds get a clean-up and facelift too…let trees live freely for they give us oxygen, relief from heat, a spot of coolness.
This is to say the old cockrials and hens no longer stalk GMC lobbies, they have been shifted out to some outside background I’m told; no cows stroll in to feel at home here either…some dogs hang around snoozing here and there. Dogs can’t be chased away. The cows are outside the gates and every night while returning I see them piled up in the centre of the road, in the dim lighting some stretches one must be on the lookout. With all the road changes going on outside Goa’s premier public hospital I hope things will be streamlined soon.
Dear Mr Vishwajeet Rane, there must be an organized food court for these food vendors and other servicing folk. They provide what patients’ relatives need on a daily basis while doing some caretaking, these are also critical times for them. Like all hospitals and especially public hospitals like the GMC it is more about flocks of patients coming and going on a daily basis. I must confess I have mixed feelings about the role the GMC has played in my patient’s life and I suppose in many a patient’s life in Goa. Memories, grievances, wishful thinking, heartaches and last but not least of all this time around too I think of how hard -pressed and rushed off their feet most of the resident doctors and nursing staff are – and I salute them for their endless patience with the suffering of patients young and old. Thank-you Dr Sudhir, Dr Sandeep, DrSuresh, Dr Shubham, Dr Anish, Dr Samiksha, Dr Saurav…bless you all for never losing patience with a patient and above all there is consulting Dr Rajesh Patil whom I would trust with any patient’s life.
The GMC deserves better as do its army of doctors and servicing staff! This time around I am seeing it happen and I will say here through all the bitter Covid-19 pandemic criticism that is coming Health Minister Vishwanath Rane’s way is doing his best to improve hospital healthcare in Goa. Just a little bit more is left! Not only inside the premises but also outside in the garden grounds and definitely quickly outside the gates of the hospital….where there is so much chaos currently.

The Hanuman temple occupies so much space, why can’t a sparten food court and sundry businesses area be earmarked and organized for the folk who earn their small livelihoods outside the hospital? You cannot demolish, chase, frighten them away all the time out of political compulsions. Solve the problem, it’s a real problem and it’s not going to go away because this is a public hospital — paid for by public money. In my book the public always deserves better and especially the aam aadmi public. The monied classes can go anywhere to their fancy wellness sanitoriums at home and abroad.
In this respect and I have seen the whole of this week gone by – patients in ward beds do get faster treatment, better treatment, despite the hectic turnover of patients. Although if anyone is interested at Sodexo’s I think it is a better idea to a consult a patient as in “Today, we have this, this, this…what can we give you?” Some patients will say nothing please but most will consider and say okay, just give me some rice and dal or roti and sabzis or just the boiled egg and one pau please. But I suppose that would take more time than the guys have to waste on difficult patients and their relatives!
Personally, if a were a patient in one of the GMC wards I would not mind if someone gave me the day’s menu and asked me what I wanted, so I would take only what I wanted and not waste chappati or rice or pau or even the boiled egg…as it is I was seeing these full platters going back half-eaten. I don’t know who taught us to waste food, send some of the patients off to Afghanistan to see how the children would grab anything to soothe their hunger pangs. Treat all food as sacred please, especially if it has been cooked by someone who cares right from scratch for you.

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