Handling hundreds of critical patients daily without a single elevator at their disposal, the doctors and paramedical staff of Patna Medical College and Hospital are doing wonders.
Make no mistake. The hospital has five elevators. But none is used.
Of the five elevators, three are defunct for over three decades because of technical snags. The two operational — one at the Indira Gandhi critical care unit and the other at the paediatric ward — remain unused in the absence of liftmen.
The elevators standstill, patients are taken from one floor to another on trolleys. The journey through ramps often turns painful for critical patients, but the hospital authorities seemed least bothered to end their ordeal. They did not even apprise the health department of the defunct lifts.
Hospital superintendent Dr O.P. Chaudhary said: “The lifts are very old and seem to be beyond repair. I have been here for the past 15 years. The elevators stopped operating much before that. The problems of lifts can be solved only when we have new buildings and the infrastructure in place — a project that is waiting government clearance.”
The health department additional secretary, Rajendra Prasad Ojha, was on a different plane on the issue. He said: “The issue of defunct elevators was never brought to our notice. If the PMCH authorities communicate to us about it, we will renovate the lifts.”
Till the elevators are repaired or liftmen are appointed, over 400 patients taken to the Indira Gandhi critical care unit — popular as central emergency ward — daily will continue to suffer. Most of them need critical care and are shifted to the medical and the surgical intensive care units on the first and the second floor of the ward, respectively.
With none of the two elevators in the ward functional, trolleys are used to shift patients from one floor to another. Relatives of patients accompanying the trolley men fret when their dear ones are wheeled through ramps.
“When patients’ trolleys are pushed through the ramps, intra-venous tubes and urinary catheters often get detached from the ailing persons’ bodies. These problems could have been easily avoided had the elevators been working,” said a junior doctor in the ward.
Cut to the Rajendra surgical ward. It houses several departments like surgery, plastic surgery and pathology.
The building has an elevator, but nobody has seen it function for ages. Trolleys are the only mode of shifting patients from floor to floor.
Dr J.P. Gupta, a senior surgeon with the hospital, said: “I saw the lift working in the ward when I was a student here between 1965 and 1970. It was a sort of novelty then. But after I joined the hospital, I never saw it moving. For the past 30 years, it is standstill. The lift tunnel has become a sort of a dump yard now, where people chuck litter.”
The Hathwa ward, the oldest and the biggest of all, has a spacious elevator. Fitted before Independence, nobody working at the hospital at present has ever seen it operate in decades.
“The elevator in the ward looks rusty. We do not even expect it to work and urge patients or attendants to use either the staircase or the ramps,” said a para-medical staff.
The paediatric ward has a functional elevator but it remains locked 24x7 because there is no liftman to operate it.
“I often need to take my eight-year-old son, undergoing treatment in a third floor room, outside the hospital for pathological test. I carry him through the stairs on my lap as the lift does not work. Carrying him on a trolley through the ramps is inconvenient and risky,” said Samvad Mishra.
Samvad’s pain is in a way PMCH’s gain because the hospital does not have to spend a penny on the five elevators in the health hub.
PMCH manager Alok Ranjan said: “As the three elevators have not been working, no money is spent on their upkeep. The two operational but never used because of manpower shortage are taken care of by the electricity board.”