Ward boys, nurses throw medicines at patients
Plates with half-eaten meals left around for days
No change of clothes for patients for nearly a week
Bedsheets not replaced for days; filthy washrooms
Terrifying patients’ accounts from the city’s second most important Covid-19 facility. Authorities admit retaining housekeeping staff has been a struggle

| Lata.Mishra and Makarand Gadgil

Horror stories of abysmally poor hygiene and neglect emerged from SevenHills Hospital on Thursday and the authorities admitted that retaining housekeeping staff at one of Mumbai’s most important institution treating Covid-19 patients has become a challenge.

SevenHills in Andheri, which was refitted to be a Covid-19 centre after remaining shut for close to two years following the exit of its private operator, is the second most important centre after Kasturba in the city’s fight against coronavirus and is currently treating over 423 patients.

While BMC-run hospitals have never been known for cleanliness, accounts coming out of SevenHills are much more alarming – an aged patient’s diapers not being changed for close to a day and when changed the used diaper left by the bedside for another 24 hours; nurses and ward boys throwing medicines at patients because they don’t want to come too close; patients not getting a change of clothes for over a week; and plates with half-eaten meals and used tea cups lying around in rooms for days.

Some of these accounts are supported by videos and pictures sent out by patients.

The hospital administration is aware of the grave situation and is trying everything possible to hire more housekeeping hands. One of the main reasons nobody is willing to take up the job is the fear of coronavirus. In just the past couple of days, 15 housekeeping staff quit. “They just stop reporting to work. Their main concern is their families, to whom they go back after work. They believe they could endanger their loved ones’ wellbeing,” said a source.

On Sunday, SevenHills was making do with housekeeping staff strength of 53. Its requirement to serve 432 patients — 300.

A 46-year-old woman, who was admitted on Thursday, said her fear is that she will contract some other disease while being treated for Covid-19 infection. This home-maker from Andheri, whose husband is positive too but asymptomatic and thus at an isolation facility in Andheri, said her bed sheets have not been changed for a week and smelly plates lie around in the room for days. “We are four to a room. I have no problem with that. I can understand there is a space crunch, but can they not keep the room clean?” she asked.

She said the nurses and ward boys throw medicines at them from a distance and added that an old lady kept requesting for a diaper change for one entire day. “When her diaper was changed, the used one was left by her bed side and there it remained for another 24 hours,” she said.

While acknowledging that what she is saying may scare those yet undetected and may push them to hide their symptoms or lie about travel history, the woman said it is important for her to talk because things may improve after her account reaches senior BMC officers. “I have not met a doctor ever since I have been admitted here. We are only dealing with nurses and ward boys. Nobody tells us how is our condition and when we will be discharged,” she said.

A doctor, who works with a private hospital and tested positive for Covid-19 recently, said his room has not been cleaned for five days. “I am still wearing the hospital clothes that were given to me on my first day here. Bathrooms are filthy and bed sheets are not changed for days,” he said.

Dr Balkrishna Adsul, head of Community Medicine Department at Sion Hospital and currently in-charge of SevenHills admitted hiring housekeeping staff is a struggle. “Many have quit. Their main concern is that only doctors and nurses get PPEs (personal protection equipment). Since Friday, we are making sure house keeping staff get PPEs too. We are talking to multiple agencies to hire attendants. Hope things will get resolved soon,” he said.

Everybody at SevenHills Hospital seems to have been taken by surprise at the speed at which they are having to ramp up services to take in more and more patients and more and more responsibility.

M Ramaswami, former Navi Mumbai municipal corporation who has been appointed to oversee the development of SevenHills, said appointment of 80 new housekeeping staff was cleared on Monday. “In a day or two, a hundred more will be appointed. As per the protocol, we will provide PPEs to everybody – doctors, nurses and housekeeping staff,” he said.

courtesy Mumbai Mirror