WARD 121, PRIVATE ROOMS: Patients seek them for the friendlier bathroom and privacy. On the surface everything looks good but equipment may not be in working condition and state of the art beds heavyduty…at one time one could find a blanket if needed but no longer, also get your own bottled water if you wish. There are both single and sharing rooms here with different pricing and of course visiting doctors and nursing charges apply; perhaps the only perfectly well-maintained rooms are in the VIP suite politicians and their kin and friends, where the late Manohar Parrikar spent some time.

By Tara Narayan

WHAT ails Ward-121, Private Rooms at the Goa Medical College & Hospital? The nurses are of long-standing and excellent human beings, as are the resident doctors and some of the heads of department and consultants who come and go. The private rooms of Ward-121 though pleasant enough are never in peak maintained condition. Something or another doesn’t work be it in the room or the bathroom. Perhaps the only exception being the VIP suite where politicians, their kin and those recommended by them, can spend some time for treatment and convalescence (as the late chief minister of Goa Manohar Parrikar did).
Alas, Manohar Parrikar is no longer around to complain to. There is only Health Minister Vishwajit Rane who perhaps has his fingers in bigger pies than the State health portfolio (although to him go the credit for many changes for the better)! To be honest the majority of patients from Casualty who need admitting generally go to the general wards which over time have improved. The bathrooms attached to wards are better but still leave have a long way to go to be patient friendly. These bathrooms with their set of toilets are used by patients and family attendants and are always in a state of nauseating use — wet, slippery, with litter and junk piled up in corners, lunch trays with uneaten food, at night bandicoots roam from ward to ward. Most patients use the bathroom toilets very gingerly and with great care because they always in need of round-the-clock maintenance — but this never happens whatever the reasons.
LAST week, to cut the story short, long suffering patient Rajan Narayan was admitted to the GMC male orthopaedic ward side room (each ward has two small private side rooms attached for critical patients but the toilet-bath attached is so patient unfriendly be it a young patient or a senior patient in need of isolation from the general ward). The patient was at the GMC for rectal prolapse surgery which Dr Rajesh Patil had agreed to perform on a patient willing to take the risk to improve the quality of his life – failing which he says in despair he would like to be gone with the wind and donate his body to the GMC (as a matter of fact where all his health problems began).
Rectal prolapse is a vast subject and common in women patients (after several deliveries) and babies but comparatively rare in men. Patients who have suffered spinal injuries like this patient has end up with a recurring rectal prolapse, in the aftermath of the severe beating up he got in 1989 while editor of the Herald. Let me say Rajan Narayan continues to pay the price for to this day even as the criminals who wrecked his health continue to roam Goa from strength to strength today. Do politicians ever get convicted in Goa?

MEDIA People are not exactly rich folk. At least not those who come from this patient’s generation of journalists. But senior citizen and editor of the 20-year- old political weekly Goan Observer, Rajan Narayan, unable to deal with the ward side room toilet, finally booked a private room in Ward 121. He has been in the private rooms before despite their growing cost for aam aadmi. The charges now for a single room in Ward No.121 today is Rs1,200 per day including food while sharing room is Rs750 per day including food (see details in information box here).
Mind you it is hard to book a private room unless a doctor runs interference for you. At first accountant Mr Joshi who sits at the Reservation office on the ground floor said all private rooms are occupied with patients. Sorry, no room availability. Reality: Several rooms/ beds were vacant upon checking. Room No.5 was vacant as also beds in the sharing rooms. Then Mr Joshi said private rooms are expensive, you will have to deposit Rs15,000. With only Rs5,000 with me, I said I’d make up the balance later, but please book the room for me, my husband needs a proper bathroom. Nothing doing. The room couldn’t be booked until Rs15,000 was laid down and no checks are accepted, nor may one remit through digital technology.

HOSPITAL FOOD: Not too bad if you have an appetite which not too many patients have depending on the state of their health. You may get tea, ragi drink, milk but only if you drink it…also an egg for breakfast. No meals for patient’s attendant unless on prior order. There is a hospital nutritionist who may drop in to discuss what you should eat if you are a diabetic or a kidney patient. Soups and porridges if your doctor prescribes for you!

It was cash down (as in the casinos I imagine). Never mind that Rajan Narayan is a case history of a medical screw-up at the GMC and most of the senior medical faculty know it and have sympathy for him. Thankfully, last week he got a private room and moved in. The air-conditioned private rooms in Ward No121 mostly accommodate CABG patients post-heart surgery. In the past though I have noted how the sharing room here with two or three beds are occupied by all kinds of dubious patients who may have influential relatives working in the GMC! Washed clothes are strung up on a line in the ward itself while groups of family trot in and out.
Rajan was allotted Room No.5 and it was good enough but for the fact that the air-conditioner formed icicles and in the night on the side attendant’s coach some chilly droplets falling on me woke me up in alarm! The ward technician repaired the A/c the next day but it seems the formation of icicles on the air-conditioner is a long recurring problem and patients have complained bitterly. Mercifully the bathroom is workable but for the garish green plastic pad outside which absorbs no water. It is really for want of a decent bathroom that patients like this one cough up for a private room of Ward No.121. Plus, No.121 is cleaner and better sanitised, although one may have to go collect one’s own drinking hot water from the pantry.

IT’S CHALTA HAI. The GMC bedsheets are pristine white and the room gets cleaned morning and night or on request. However, the general perception is always go to the general wards, if you have DDSSY insurance your billing will be practically nil for excellent service. In Ward No.121 private rooms naturally or unnaturally all essential and non-essential charges are jacked up to absurd levels! The fees and charges of consulting doctors and nursing care are higher. A week’s stay here may present you with a bill of over a lakh even for a small but skilful surgery. To my annoyance the accountant downstairs Mr Joshi doesn’t even give you a proper breakdown of the billing so that you may approach one insurance company for a refund on health care which we have invested in. The last time around at the GMC’s private room I remember calling again and again with personal visits but with the exception of a receipt failed to get the detailed billing charge papers. In the end I gave up and the loss was mine.
From the looks of it the GMC’s accounts department reportedly works only for a few hours in the morning and afternoon and that’s when you have to remember to catch them if you want any booking, confirmation, deposit receipt, billing papers later on upon discharge and so on. Or you may find yourself time passing in Ward No.121 Saturday and Sunday till Monday arrives!
A FEW more observations and then I am done here. First day in Room No.5 the patient who has very little fat stocks on his fragile frame asked for fan and A/c to be put off (never mind the A/c was not in working condition anyway), “Get me a warm blanket.” Nurse said they don’t have any blankets for patients. I return home which is not too far away mercifully and get him a warm cover. So it is with other things, get it from home or go out and buy from the mini-market outside the GMC gates – for money everything is available, be it towels, napkins, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush. There is a pail and tumbler in the bathroom so one need not buy these!

IF YOUcan afford it you may hang around in Ward No121 forever. It’s more economical than a three-star hotel, all you need is a friendly doctor to check you in. Despite all the shortcomings Ward No.121, private rooms, do offer more comfort levels, only remember, it may cost you a bomb eventually if you’re aam aadmi and not khaas aadmi or sarkari VIP.

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