GLIMPSES OF GMC’S PRIVATE ROOMS WARD NO.121…an oasis for patients! There are 23 rooms single and on double sharing basis. The Sodexo catering kitchen folk come and go with meals and whatever is prescribed for you, the rooms are cool with air-conditioning and open to a balcony…

By Tara Narayan

Not many know Goa’s premier public hospital Goa Medical College & Hospital has a private ward of independent and double sharing rooms for patients who need critical care…

WHEN in trouble most of us end up at Casualty and the Goa Medical College & Hospital, Goa’s premier and oldest public hospital (with a distinguished history dating back to Portuguese times). I don’t know if anybody has written a book on the historical life and times of the GMC but it is high time someone did for it would be worth it! So if you’re suddenly in an emergency life or death situation at home or on the roads you call for the free State-provided EMI ambulance service on 108 – and hope the service arrives promptly enough to save life.
Over the years of being in and out of the GMC I have noticed that In Casualty it helps if you know any of the doctors at the GMC if you want to be treated quickly or you may lie there in state till some resident doctor on duty takes an interest in you (I have experienced this personally in the past and called up the dean occasionally if someone calls desperately saying their mother, father, wife, etc, is in GMC Casualty and nobody has come to take a look for the last one hour, the patient is attended to immediately than). Most of the time desperate citizens call up some media person who may help them out with a patient lying unattended to in Casualty and it usually helps for most media persons know many of the doctors (some of them constantly seeking publicity for some good medical news in which they take the credit)…so it helps to know media people, at least some media people1
Most patients will end up in the relevant designated wards sharing space with perhaps 20 to 30 or plus, plus other patients…with common bathroom-toilet blocks attached at both ends of the large wards, some of the older wards have large windows overlooking the garden outdoors if lucky. The nursing stations at the wards are constantly busy and here nurses and resident doctors on shift duty come and go and sometimes at a moment’s notice. There are also the consultant or HOD doctors who do their morning rounds with the resident doctors and nursing staff…patients come to the wards after being admitted for treatment by various doctors at the daily Out Door Patient’s sections and there are special days devoted OT or operating patients in queue.
EACH ward has twin private rooms where a ward patient may be isolated if required and these twin cabin-styled rooms have attached Indian and Western-style toilet-baths which leave a lot to be desired if you’re a senior patient (water is no problem but the drainage hole is perennially a gaping open hole and the arrangement of utilities is lacking in imagination, for example, why would anyone have marble flooring in a bathroom, usually wet, it offers ample scope for slipping and injuring oneself, and there’s precious little to hold on to here)!
The GMC rule is every patients must have a 24-hour attendant but in the absence of family members, finding a suitably trained paid-for nursing attendant is a huge business (even a nurse or a doctor may recommend an attendant to you but most so called attendants are a sorry story — never mind that a patient may be required to shell out anything from Rs500 to 1,000 for an attendant at night if the family members needs to go home to get some sleep). There are any number of agencies bona fide and malafide with lists of ill-trained or semi-trained nursing attendants for hire – in fact nursing attendants agencies are mushrooming like anything and that’s another wonderful or horror story altogether. Nursing attendants are in demand especially when in nuclear families there’s no one who can be spared to spend time in hospital with a family patient, especially in the nights.

Private Ward No 121…everything paid for, check the rate here!

USUALLY, I find that it is for want of a decent private bathroom that some patients try to afford a room in the posh private Ward No.121 with its No 1 to 23 rooms priced at Rs1,200 to Rs750 (double patient sharing) per night. Also, all healthcare including various doctors’ visits are billed much higher in the private ward rooms. The ward is sparkling clean and the rooms are spacious with the bathroom featuring a useful hand faucet, the rooms also open out to a balcony. No potable water is provided in the rooms although a ward bai or male staffer comes around in the morning with a kettle of hot water so that you may fill up your flask; failing this get your own water bottles from home or from the cafeterias in the hospital complex.
The Sodexo catering boys and girls come and go at 7 am with tea, then at about 8am with breakfast, at 1pm lunch, tea at teatime and dinner at the end of the day. Dinners I find are usually wasted and some patients are happy to just accept the glass of milk. There is a GMC dietician called Poonam who calls in the beginning to see if the patient has special requirements but the patient expresses no interest – the patient is left to eat whatever comes in the routine meals or let it go. A patient’s attendant may of course go down the Sodexo Yoo cafeteria near the chemists’ area to buy some decent combo food like maybe jeera rice-paneer or mixed vegetables or kofta curry or something similar, along with a range of snacks. I have always found the samosa here to be very decent as well as the combo meals which may add up to a Rs100 or so.
One late night while restless and trying to get an internet connection, I walked up and down the corridor of Ward No 121, and arrived at the VIP room where I imagine the late chief minister Manohar Parrikar spent a few days while he was suffering from cancer of the pancreas in a terminal stage. I turned the door handle and surprisingly it was not locked and opened easily to give me a glimpse of the VIP suite. If you know any Goan ministers you may be able to book the VIP suite for a patient in need of critical care. This suite is usually kept ready for the use of any VIP who turns up in Goa and gets into trouble with his health.
Very often the rooms of private Ward No121 go a begging for patients! Naturally, most patients who come to the GMC don’t have money to burn and most can’t afford the country’s exorbitant private healthcare in private hospitals even if they have insurance). However, sometimes, the Ward No121 rooms from 1 to 28 are nearly fully occupied with critical patients being treated for say covid-19 or maybe post-covid convalescing senior patients.
The rooms are also preferred by well-to-do ortho patients who take a room here for post-operative care and the accompanying therapy which sees them back on their feet, mobile in a few days before they are discharged. Many patients suffering from disabling joint pains do go in for knee or hip replacement surgery which is of a very high standard nowadays and a patient may be on his or her feet within two or three days!
I ALWAYS pray every patient recovers from whatever is bothering him or her and no patient says goodbye cruel world here in this ward. This is because I always feel that private Ward No 121 on the first floor of the old GMC building is like a bit of an oasis! I noticed that the ward is in need of better, lighter blankets for patients, as also water dispensing machine offering hot/cold water which patients and their attendants may access any time day or night. Most hospital floors do have these hot/cold water machines installed for convenience. Perhaps some NGO can donate this useful facility to all the GMC wards including private Ward No 121!

…the VIP Suite is also in Ward No 121, kept ready here at all times for you never know when a political VIP may drop by for some healing of the mind and body, heart and soul. Late chief minister, Manohar Parrikar, was here for some days.

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