Will some charitable philanthropist do the needful?

GLIMPSES …a mix of good and bad! Swept and swabbed corridors/wards but broken glass windows, doors, all kinds of dangerous clutter lying around in corners, pipes in desperate need of repairs. The GMC one sees while walking the corridors is in dire need of repairs and maintenance. Otherwise this is an old is gold hospital for the people with a terrific history! The Sodexo Yoo canteen near the pharmacy shops is economical, but menu and premises can do with upgrading and friendlier re-designing, please. A salute to the staff here!

FIRST the good news. Goa’s Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has done a remarkably good job for the people’s hospital, the Goa Medical College & Hospital at Bambolim. The old GMC of old spooky dingy corridors is a memory of the past and today if I walk in at the GMC, any of the block buildings, at 8am in the morning staff are sweeping and swabbing – yes, three times a day. Take a bow housekeeping staff!
Goa’s premier public hospital (with quite a history to narrate) has brightened up vastly. Over the years with all my memories of being in and out of it in public and private wards, I have acquired enormous respect and affection for the vast sprawling grounds of Goa’s premier public hospital, never mind the ropes everywhere or the construction rubble piling up everywhere in derelict corners. It’s something which can be easily solved surely given the sunlight, salt and time, if anybody has the time to bother about nitty gritty finishing touches!

I REMEMBER the first time the Sodexo patient’s meals came to the wards, the meals have become so agreeable even if they’re not very diabetes or heart-friendly yet. Now I see most patients eat their food as long as they are up to eating it and their dentures don’t give them chewing problems – most senior patients do suffer from denture problems, they slip out of their hands and fall to the floor, some teeth break…(sigh)…never get repaired and the patient is too scared to complain!
What are we reducing our senior citizens’ growing population to? Somebody has to help helpless seniors repair their dentures so that they may chew food, as long as there is energy enough to chew and their digestive system is fine (which very often is not and this too needs the correct treatment).

THIS last more than one month now I’ve been visiting with GMC Ward No.115, this is the fairly new Geriatrics Ward, a most pleasant ward, perhaps the most pleasant, are there any prizes awarded to the best wards at the GMC in annual or bi-annual or quarterly inspections? This is the ward which came up during the traumatic times of Covid19– the ward has space for well-laid out 30 something beds, with all life-saving equipment in place to save a patient life if he or she slips into a crisis. The ward sees a considerable turnover of senior citizens.
It is brightly lit, non-A/C ward, with comparatively clean bathrooms for male and female patients’ use separately (why dustbins only for the female bathroom?). There’s also a large balcony or balcao where patients after physiotherapy session may take in the air ensconced on their wheelchair if they so desire. There’s enough room to for wheelchair movement, most patients are mobilised eventually before they’re sent home to home care (if there’s anyone at home to take care of them). Most seniors in Goa live all, all alone in Goa.
The compassionate HOD Dr Edwin Gomes, who’s been a familiar doctor at the GMC for the last 40 years (and retiring next year) is in charge of Geriatric Ward and he runs it meticulously. Close to be what is a home away from home for patients (there’s even a clock up somewhere to tell you the time, most wards don’t want to tell you the time of the day!).
Many patients come and go during the week to be facilitated for dialysis or dressing of wounds; like it or not, Goa leads the country in diabetes figures at 26.4%. So good is the good life in Goa and steeped in consumerism! Many senior patients here are patients suffering from the backlash of diabetes negligence…their diet, their feet, their state of mind, all need some TLC attending to help them heal. Patients are both in acute and chronic stages of life’s end years. What is not possible at home is possible in G Ward as I have taken to calling it.
Most patients are happy with the breakfast, lunch and dinner thali meal, while some are unhappy and waste food for reasons which need checking out; some fortunate patients may supplement it with food from home, fried fish maybe. Lucky are those who have loving relatives and sometimes a whole roll-call of them! This ward welcomes visitors and occasionally you may see charitable institute’s sisters visiting here with patients to listen to their woes, if any, or if they are in need of something as patients and which can be supplied to them.

Many of the diabetic patients are ignorant of the manner in which food can make a difference to their diabetes blood sugar numbers which escalate after a meal or even some exercise…but then again diabetes is a very complex metabolic disease eating into body beautiful, and once the years have fled it can be quite a challenge to grow old and older.
The routine is usually like morning routine of changing bed sheets and pillow covers of patients supervised by ward nurses; breakfast is served by the agile Sodexo boys who whirl about with brisk efficiency and I am in awe of them. A glass of milk is served to all patients and if some patients do not eat their meals or drink the milk…er…the caretaker of the patient eats and drinks (so he/she doesn’t wander off the hospital premises in search of a foodie break, mostly outside the hospital premises where there’re a slew of vendors retailing very good food indeed, from soft polle and sannam of white and red rice to chappati-usal, idli-chutney, vada-pau, poha, upma and much more I buy happily to take home for my lunch or dinner. A pair of ragi polle costs Rs30 and you may or may not get chutney along with it. (Sigh) All in plastics of course, plastics are our biggest curse but nobody is doing much about it up the line or down the line. Not even the government of Dr Pramod Sawant, sorry to say!
Doctor with his mini-army of resident doctors, nurses, ward sisters do their duty rounds at about 9am and new prescriptions written up for each patient. Patients’ woes are redressed, some are much better and fit for discharge. The ward sees many return patients. Patient’s vital details are taken morning and night: how much water imbibed, how much juice, how much food, medicines, etc. All is noted down.
I hate the IV drips and catheters the most! These facilitate a patient for urine and various canula holes are punched at hand or wrists or abdomen and elsewhere to “feed” the patient with what he needs but is not able to eat orally…various medical or sustenance “food” of protein supplements and amino acids are directly fed into the blood stream of the patient (to give the intestines a holiday if you please).
Medical science has come a long way but I wonder how long one may sustain a patient who is no longer independent in his vital ability to drink, eat, move and the rest of it. Miracles do happen continuously. Spend a week or more in a hospital ward and one is considerable humbled and enlightened about the nitty gritty of staying alive and how much of a challenge life becomes as we try not to be a burden on anyone!
There is so much to understand about the science and art of geriatrics, a new field in need of growing in India. To a query Dr Edwin Gomes agrees that mainstream healthcare is tunnel-visioned, there is a different consultant doctor for every patient’s ailment who doesn’t or won’t see beyond his or her sphere of speciality, to connect the dots for a better understanding of a patient’s mind and body, heart and soul.
All this notwithstanding I would like to say that Goa’s premier public hospital is in need of better maintenance – hey, there’s money is selling off all the construction rubble lying around! Maybe a few philanthropists be wooed to do the needful? Have one festival or celebration less, skip it in favour of doing a deep cleansing of the exterior grounds of the GMC complex, things like restoration of the corridor windows and doors; fixing leaky pipes, turn wild green spaces into pocket gardens for rest and recreation for the many who flock here daily with grim determination and patience…patients, family attendants, or caretakers, nursing staff, nursing and medical students, all flock to the GMC daily.
Please note, I am not complaining! But isn’t it true that in rich Goa we see big money spent on entertainments galore…so what if we have one festival less? The money goes towards giving the GMC a real good clean-up, better organisation of public grounds? Even just for historical nostalgia value the state’s premier hospital deserves better and private charities must play a role in it! Do what the government exchequer cannot do!
Even the Sodexo canteen where so many catch up with “pet puja” can do with re-designing, places to sit and eat. The outlet could stock a few health-conscious things like Yacault, yogurt brands, offer cut fruit and fruit and veggie juices…coconut water is much in demand but one has to bring it in from outside the hospital.
I will say the fried batatawada and samosa at the GMC’s Yoo canteens are the best anywhere I’ve eaten. But how about the availability of nachne roti instead of terrible puri, how about millet kichadi, buttermilk. The idli-sambar at Rs33 is a most economical buy here at Yoo canteen!
We may remember that bread, rice, pastry puffs of all kind are high glycemic index staples and snacks…hence the suggestion for nachne roti rolls or just jowari chappaties with tambdi bhaji, instead of pau-bhaji or a spiced up usal-pau. How about soybean milk, stir fried tofu, besan cheela with green chutneys which seem to have gone for a toss in recent times at the Sodexo canteens! How about an alternative to dairy milk, oat milk?
Well, these are my suggestions after a month of tramping around the Goa Medical College & Hospital! It is in desperate need of maintenance makeovers, if anyone is listening in or outside the GMC…or it will continue to rusticate till things fall apart.
ON that note it’s avjo, selamat datang, poite verem, au revoir, arrivedecci, hasta la vista and vachun yeta here for now.

—Mme Butterfly

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