Gangtok: It has been dubbed as one of the biggest government hospitals in the country, next only to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) located in New Delhi in size. However, a little over two months after the ‘mega hospital’ opened its doors to the public, it’s grappling with a ‘mega’ issue — waste accumulation.
Patients and staffers on board at the 10-storied Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial (STNM) Multi-Specialty Hospital in Sochakgang, located about 3 km from capital Gangtok in Sikkim, have been crying foul over waste management, or rather the lack of it, within the hospital premises.
Over the course of the last few days, many complaints have been registered with regards to garbage being dumped at the basement of the main hospital building. After a series of complaints and posts across social media, the same was cleared by the hospital authorities. However, several sections of the premises are still piling up with waste generated by the hospital.
The waste in contention here includes anything from bio-hazard waste to human excreta to other household leftovers being scattered all across the hospital premises. The solution meted out by the hospital authorities, as per the staffers and patients, was to dump the waste far away from the main entrance to the nursing college area further down the hill. The result of this was that flies started swarming in to the premises including the rooms of boarding students.
A student in the nursing college claimed, “When we wake up in the morning, our rooms are filled with flies everywhere. When we return from our daily classes, the flies are over the fans. To make matters worse, even our kitchen and dining area are filled with flies moving across our food on plates. All these flies are coming from the waste dumped near our college.”
Many students have complained against the foul environment created by the dumped waste, with even cases of diarrhoea, vomiting, headache and fever coming to the fore.
Elsewhere, the basement of the main building, which is used as a parking space for the hospital officials, is filled with garbage at all points of time. Apart from the dumped waste, construction material fill remaining areas of the basement and others sections of the main hospital building.
“This hospital was labeled as the second biggest government hospital in the country, but the environment here is so terrible that it does not stand as a hospital yet. There are wastes everywhere, from the corridors to the abandoned lifts to rooms filled with unwanted construction materials. The basement was abuzz with flies a few days ago, now slowly they are clearing up the waste but the smell still lingers,” said a relative of a patient at the hospital.
Meanwhile, KB Gurung, medical superintendent of the hospital, claimed that the waste management was an issue before, but the same is being solved currently. “We have reached an agreement with the Gangtok Municipal Corporation who will be sending their trucks to the hospital. Just today itself, they have taken away waste from the hospital in two shifts. There is another shift to follow in the evening. Over the next few days, the problem of waste management will be resolved.”
Assuring that the trucks will come on a regular basis, the hospital has also deputed two of its own vehicles used for construction to clear the waste.
The hospital houses 64 safai karmacharis, many of whom have secured the jobs as sanitary assistants, as per the ‘One Family, One Job’ scheme. Yet, the hospital’s medical superintendent claims that some locals have also been deputed under the scheme. “They are not in for the job of cleaning the toilets or the waste, resulting in litter everywhere. There are tea cups lying everywhere, walls painted with ‘pan’ stains. These are a few hassles we are facing along.”
The hospital is also facing an acute shortage of water supply despite having a dedicated plant of 7 lakh litre capacity, of which 2 lakh litres are kept as reserve for emergency services on a regular basis.
“The issue with water supply we faced was with regards to our supply chain being cut short by the locals here. This results in a water scarcity in the hospital. The same has been resolved after the police intervened and we have a sufficient supply of 5 lakh litres for usage which is enough to sustain the hospital for three days,” Gurung said.
Patients still complain of not having sufficient water in most of the toilets in the hospital. “The condition here is so bad that just the other day an operation could not be carried out due to lack of water supply. The toilets are filled with excreta. The supply reaches the offices of the doctors and the administrative staff, but the same is not provided to the public in the hospital,” a patient lamented.