A VERITABLE CARETAKERS MELA AT THE GMC!

BLESSED ARE THOSE WITH CARETAKERS/CAREGIVERS! Goa is flooded with all kinds of wannabe caretakers or caregivers for patients in hospitals public and private…most are on employment registers while many break free to become freelancers from Goa or out of Goa. It’s a lucrative job, taking care of patients in hospital wards or at homes where senior patients have no relatives to watch out for them, or the family is scattered across the world as it is in today’s lonely scenarios. It’s a Catch 22 situation in which if you are lucky you get a trained, caring attendant, or sometimes a nasty one who may bully a patient quietly with nobody the wiser! However, the caretaking world is here to stay good, bad or ugly.

By Tara Narayan

Caretaking of patients is becoming a huge, uncontrolled and of dubious value brisk business opportunity in Goa. We do not know how many cuts are distributed down the line, just so that a patient may find a kind-hearted trained diaper changer while suffering the experience of being bed-ridden and helpless in a hospital ward …the going rate is Rs1,000 to change a sick man’s or woman’s diaper twice or more times a day…

FIRST you want to laugh, then you want to cry. It’s such a crazy scenario but no joking matter when you think about it. Caretaking of patients in a huge burgeoning healthcare business is getting to be more and more bizarre in Goa. The going rate for caretaking a patient in a hospital bed starts from Rs500 to Rs1,000 per 12 hours duty…never mind how young, how old, how qualified, how unqualified your caretaker is. They will take care or pretend to take care of a young or a senior citizen or very bedridden patient in a hospital bed or at home — the money is good!
Yes, as much as a doctor would charge to make a home visit to a patient nowadays, but doctors are doctors and the salt of the earth. Well, for heaven’s sake, so is a caring relative or a paid caretaker…but here the story acquires an interesting or macabre twist. Seeing how much revenue there is in caretaking patients, even a toddy tapper in Goa can moonshine as a caretaker if he makes up his mind and finds a good marketing person to look for a “bakra” (rich or poor victim in need on a hospital bed).
FROM the looks of it Goa is being flooded with job-seekers who find caretaking the fastest and most instant way of earning a living in our hard-pressed times, when most of us with a patient in a hospital, are juggling with time taking care of home, wife, children, job or business, financial sustainability…and ageing parents with health issues.
Yes, we look for caretakers to help take care of some of the burden of our mind and body, heart and soul. Unfortunately, caretakers present themselves in as caretakers trained or half-trained or not at all trained for patients in need of caretaking in a hospital ward, or even in homes which may be wealthy homes or disorganized less wealthy homes.
Some of us need a caretaker for a parent or a grandparent in the day time and/or the night-time, or around the clock on a long-term monthly basis. It’s better of course if you just adopt a caretaker or care-giver (both synonymous terms) at a monthly grand salary which may be up to Rs25,000 or more or less. This is for services of a loved one’s caretaking around the clock – and caretaking does include feeding a half or fully bedridden patient, in small portions, using a smaller spoon if necessary (and not hastily shoving food in an already stressed out patient’s mouth, to hurry him or her along); it includes changing soiled diapers, giving a bath, shaving a male patient, dressing him up to present a positive picture for visiting family and friends.
There’s so much to the nitty-gritty of keeping a patient happy and alive…till the final bulava or so to speak. We all want patients to get better to be taken home to whoever we presume will welcome them back with tears in their eyes of pleasure.
LET’S face it. In today’s times when families scattered across the world it is difficult to take care of senior parent/s living all, all alone in Goa. It is the reality of the times and daily or weekly phone or video calls do not make up for actual presence in a home. Somebody should make a docu-series on the paise feko tamasha deko mela which the healthcare industry has become on the subject of caretakers or caregivers.
Meaning someone, male or female, to sit and watch over a patient for 12 hours or around the clock. All you have to be is be an eyewitness in a hospital ward to witness how there is a rapid turnover of patients as say in a public hospital like Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMC) or any other government hospital. As our families go from joint families to nuclear families and with family members around the world – and you’re in Goa with no son, daughter, cousin, sister-in-law, brother-in-law to call on in a health crisis…heaven help you if you are in need of a qualified caretaker or caregiver. You look high and low for someone trained in senior care services, who is honest, sensitive, not in a hurry to bully a patient along…who cleans up good, is good-humoured and not forever busy with the smart phone while the patient waits to be attended to for meals or some other service small or not so small and meticulously time-consuming.
Caretaking has become a racket, says Renuka Rao, who supplies a better category of caretakers to Goan families in need of help to watch out for their patients in a hospital or at home. She says, in fact, one caretaker takes care of two or three patients in the same ward, they will go and change a diaper for three patients, collect Rs500 from each of them and be happy!
According to Renuka there are so many “agents” supplying caretakers/caregivers in Goa now and you won’t even believe it. They are made up of sons, brothers, sisters and mothers anxious to earn good money caretaking of a patient in hospital ward or home. Whether they know how to change a patient’s messed up diaper or not the bottom-line rate they all quote is Rs1,000 per 12 hours.
It’s either that or you adopt them as a family member around the clock, feed them, give them an allowance for their needs…more than the concerned patient’s needs sometimes! Such are the troubled times we’re living in nowadays that you may consider yourself blessed if you have a large and loving, affectionate family with enough members to take on the caretaking of a family member in times of stress and distress.
Otherwise, it’s che sera sera with an assortment of paid for caretakers or caregivers courtesy half-a-dozen service-providing agencies or freelancers from varied backgrounds. Needless to say hospitals and especially public hospitals, must take stock of this growing caretakers mela which goes on in their wards on a daily basis. The latest news we hear from an eyewitness is a fight between caretakers in a GMC ward – one patient’s caretaker accusing another patient’s caretaker of “stealing” her patient while she was out on an errand!

AGENCIES VERSUS FREELANCERS!
IN the space of a fortnight changing wards at Goa premier college hospital, the Goa Medical College and Hospital at Bambolim plateau close to Panaji, this correspondent who needed to find a night time and then later also a day time caretaker for a patient – was approached on the very first day itself in the ward by three caretakers wanting to know: “Do you need a caretaker?”
There’s Matruchhaya-Rugnashraya (which offers a short stay home for patients and relatives) which also offers a sort of nursing trainees/caretakers course and supplies trainees, starting at Rs600 per day. Most of them come with a good report card and patients prefer to take them on for caretaking a patient. For male patients, according to administrators Shanta Mhambrey and Namrata Prabhu, there have a recommendation list for past students who’ve trained with them but who live near or in distant village in Goa. Marketing agents generally enquire first with a patient’s family before calling the caretaker from wherever he/she is located.
Presumably the better known registered agencies of Renuka Rao (Blue Cross Services) or Rohini Gonsalves (of Sevarat Healthcare) get most of their caretakers/caregivers from out of Goa like Jharkhand or down south India. They have a list of caretakers/caregivers/domestic companions/etc who are offered basic accommodation and food until they get a job. They function like employment bureaus for specific services and jobseekers who come to them pay a hefty down payment for registration. Then there is a smaller cut from each assignment they get, generally speaking they are like middle people who enjoy an avuncular or godmother image to their small or large team of registered job-seekers. If you’re unhappy with an assignment you may confide in them or sometimes just express happiness or unhappiness with a current assignment and would like another “assignment” not so difficult to do.
The caretakers/caregivers too have a story to tell, talk to them and they will tell you some job agents can be mercenary. You may have to pay as much as Rs30,000 to register and then there is a small sum with every placement. One caretaker confided, “Yes, we have a place to sleep and food but this is mostly dal-rice and sometimes sabzi sometimes good, sometimes bad.” They feel like bonded labour!
THIS perhaps explains the larger number of freelancers whom the agencies have cordial dislike for. Independent caretakers who broken free from agencies and who do their own marketing, calling on patients and presenting their credentials, some of them genuinely experienced with patient care. Here you keep all your earnings and the relationship is entirely between them and patient. If patient is happy, all is well, regardless of whether it’s a hospital ward bed patient or a home-based patient.
To reiterate, consider yourself lucky if you have relatives or even good friends to watch out for you if you end up in a hospital ward in our times. Here the “currency” is of genuine love and affection. Mercifully, Goan families are still large, extended families, and most of them do rally around in situations which require a helping hand in cash or in kind.
It’s only those without loving families in Goa who suffer the most when sick in bed in a public or private hospital. To them a caretaker is heaven-sent gift if he or she proves to be since, caring, intelligent, strong enough to be able to turn or lift a patient on right side or left side…so that the patient doesn’t get bed sores which can be horribly painful. There is so much to caretaking or caregiving than you may imagine and it’s not like just anybody can do the job! It does takes quite a bit of training; plus, a patient temperament is essential for patients can be old, difficult and demanding – seeing how most live in constant pain regardless of whether they’re in hospital bed or home scenarios.

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