Firozabad: Roopmani Singh, 50, is so sick, he can barely stand without support. Drowsy from medicines, he leans on his wife as he stumbles out of the tuberculosis ward at Firozabad’s Autonomous State Medical College to a ground where pigs are grunting about. He walks towards a bush, squats and starts peeing.
Singh is not the only patient at district hospital in Firozabad, which is currently battling an outbreak of dengue and four other diseases, who visits the ground to relieve himself. So dirty are the toilets here that dengue and tuberculosis patients, as well as their attendants, are defecating and urinating out in the open.
There are two buildings in the hospital. At one, the ground floor serves as the tuberculosis ward and the first as the emergency section, where dengue patients are currently receiving treatment.
Seats of western commodes at the toilets in this ward were caked with filth, including what appears to be faecal matter and blood, when ThePrint visited, and the wash basin was spattered with stains of spat-out tobacco. The deep stench of abandoned cleanliness pervaded the entire premises.
Pieces of wet cloth, seemingly used by women during their period, lay unattended.
The toilets were just a microcosm of generally low sanitary awareness in the hospital, where, on the first floor, this reporter found used syringes dumped on the floor near a garbage bin.
Open drains and garbage, including medical waste, dot the hospital compound.
On the first floor, patients awaiting admission lay on stretchers right outside the door of the toilet.
“There’s no water in the toilets. Everyone latrines on top of each other’s faeces. It’s disgusting. I choose pooping among pigs over using that toilet,” said Sunny, a 22-year-old, who has been under treatment for dengue for five days painted a dim picture of the overall sanitation conditions.
The mother of another patient said she found rotting food left by a previous occupant in a drawer in her son’s room.
“That food was rotting. Flies and mosquitoes hovering over them. I then asked the staff here to clean it,” she added.
Dr Sangeeta Ahuja, the Principal of SN Medical College who oversees the TB-cum-emergency ward, said she would look into the matter. “But a lot of relatives stay with their patients here. We’ve employed a lot of sanitation workers… but relatives stay with patients… we’re trying to improve and we’ll definitely do that.”
ThePrint couldn’t see the state of toilets at the 100-bedded mother and child care facility — the primary centre where children are being treated for dengue — or the new paediatric ward that has been opened at the hospital because journalists aren’t currently being given access inside.
Many complaints, hospital denies allegations
Dengue, scrub typhus, malaria, leptospirosis and viral fever are the five diseases identified as the cause of the outbreak in Firozabad initially described as a “mystery illness”.
According to official estimates, the outbreak has claimed 62 lives since 20 August, 80 per cent of them children. Most cases pertain to dengue.
Firozabad Chief Medical Officer Dinesh Premi told ThePrint Thursday that of 3,932 samples sent to King George Medical College since 1 September, 3,679 had tested positive for dengue, 51 for scrub typhus, 23 for leptospirosis, and 61 for malaria.
More than a month since the outbreak was first reported in Firozabad, the district hospital is still chaotic.
Some patients said they had to wait for days at the emergency ward before getting admission, and each bed is accommodating two patients. Some patients lie on stone benches. A few attendants also complained that they have had to buy all the medicines from outside, which they said defeated the purpose of visiting a government facility.
“Madamji, I am a poor man. But I’ve had to buy all my son’s medicines, his botal (intravenous drips), injections, and other necessary medicines from outside. Nothing is available here. If you argue with the nurses or doctors, they just discharge you and throw you out. Where should we go?” said one attendant, refusing to be named.
Asked about these allegations, Dr Ahuja said sharing of beds was a temporary occurrence, adding that half of the beds at the hospital are empty. The graph of the outbreak, she said, seems to be bending.
“The outbreak is very much in control now. Today (Thursday) we discharged 94 patients and admitted 92, which is a good sign. We have 520 beds with us, and 250 are occupied right now,” she said.
She also denied patients were being made to wait for days. “We’re giving attention to each and every patient,” she said, adding that the medicine allegation was untrue as well.
Everyone is getting all the medicines for free, she said.
Prerna Sharma, commissioner at the Firozabad Municipal Corporation, said they were working to keep the hospital fully equipped amid the outbreak.
“We’ve deployed extra staff at the hospital. An inspector has been made in-charge. Since there’s a large crowd of people gathered in the area, the corporation has also installed a bio toilet there. There are three ponds in the hospital compound. Work is underway to pump water out of them,” said Sharma.
“While you won’t actually get to see anti-larva medicine at various sites, but I go to the hospital every day and ensure BTI (Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis, a biological or a naturally occurring bacterium found in soils) and anti-larva spray is used there daily. We’ll provide more assistance to the hospital if they ask for it.”
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)