When S Mohan accompanied a relative to get him admitted to Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital because of spine-related problems, he found that getting a wheelchair was a difficult task.
“We had to wait for more than three-four hours every day before we could get a wheelchair to take my relative for physiotherapy and scans. Sometimes, the wheelchair we got was broken and supported by the hospital staff to prevent the patient from falling off it,” said Mohan.
Seventy-two-year-old Srinivasan regularly visits orthopaedic doctors at Stanley Medical College and hospital in outpatient services for his knee problems. But, the hospital visits would only increase his pain every time as hospital authorities could arrange for a wheelchair only after making him wait for an hour or so.
A housekeeping staff at Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital, Manikandan G, said that elderly patients find use faulty wheelchairs difficult. “The wheelchairs are mostly faulty, so we tilt it on its rear wheels and then push it. But sometimes, elderly people and those with other serious injuries feel uncomfortable with the motion and get into a tiff with us,” says Manikandan.
The condition of stretchers at these hospitals are no better. A housekeeping staff at the Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital said, “The stretchers are old and some of them can even hurt as they are broken at the edges. If the patient is brought in an ambulance, the stretchers are properly supported, and the bottom is made of foam or coir. However, the stretchers here made of stainless steel that are not in good shape need to be replaced.”
The condition of beds, mostly in general wards of the hospital is likely to aggravate health problems the mattresses are uneven condition and the beds lack hydraulics so patients cannot adjust them to their convenience. In pay wards, some of the beds do not even have pillows and bed sheets. Hence, patients are forced to buy them from outside the hospital. Hygiene at these wards is also questionable as some patients have also complained of being bitten by rats.
“I was hospitalised in orthopaedic emergency department at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital after I injured my leg in an accident. The ward I was referred to had only one bed available and the mattress was uneven. I could not use the bed as I had to keep my fractured leg on a flat surface for it to heal properly. When I requested for another bed, the nurse on duty asked me to manage with it because no other beds were vacant,” says K Jayakumar, a patient at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.
Risk of hospital-acquired infections
Patients are often seen complaining of unclean or non-sanitised beds and bed covers in emergency wards and general wards. With stains of blood on bed covers or reusable rubber bed sheets used in the emergency wards, the risk of hospital-acquired infections is very high.
“The rubber bed sheets cannot be changed for every patient and we use it on almost all the beds in the casualty ward. They are removed and replaced every day but at least five to six patients use the same bed on a single day in the emergency ward,” says a paramedic staff at RGGGH.
Though the rubber bedsheets are reusable and after being used by multiple patients on a single day, the hospital-acquired infections are likely to be carried from patient to patient.
The IV fluids stands are also not in a good condition in all the wards. Some of them are managed with strings or cloths. This creates a great risk of leading to various bacterial and viral infections.
Use of alternatives to reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections
As per a clinical trial by Pubmed Central in 2015, the use of copper-based alloys as the manufacturing material for hospital equipment has a considerably lower rate of infection stainless steel or other metals generally used in the hospitals for making wheelchair, structure, IV fluid stands other equipment. The number of live bacteria on the surface of hospital components need of copper alloys and those made from other standard materials was measured.
On tracking the infection rate, it was found that more than 99.9 per cent live bacteria were reduced in a laboratory test when using alloys of copper, brass and bronze. There was a reduction of about 83 per cent in bacteria on the copper alloy component when compared to standard materials in inpatient rooms. The rooms with copper components had 58 per cent lesser infection rate when compared to patient rooms with components of other standard materials.
Tough time for housekeeping staff
The poor condition of the equipment also gives results in a tough time for the housekeeping staff who not only have to manage with what they have, but also assist the patients who use these.
“The patients lash out on us because we assist them to the respective wards, scan departments and other tests on wheelchairs or stretchers. The doctors or higher officials are not always in the ward and duty nurses or housekeeping staff like us have to deal with the complaints of the patients. They even resort to arguments but how can we solve these problems? We can only report to our higher authorities but it is their responsibility to replace faulty equipment,” said S Vanmathi, a housekeeping staff at Stanley Medical College and Hospital.
Officials claim immediate procurement of equipment, while hospital authorities blame TNMSC
Although hospital authorities say that they replace the equipment once it is brought to their notice, some officials claimed that the equipment cannot be removed until a replacement is brought in and the delay in doing so leads to continued use of the faulty equipment.
Senior officials from Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation, however, said that the procurement of equipment is based on the demands of the respective hospitals. “The basic equipment is immediately taken care of. If the directorate requests for the equipment, we float the tender and based on the demands of the respective hospital, we provide the equipment. We cannot do anything if the faults in the equipment are not communicated to us,” said P Umanath, director of Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation.