Major Kabul hospitals: Where money makes the mare go
KABUL (Pajhwok): Residents of Kabul and patients from other provinces gripe about doctors’ misbehaviour and gratification demands from medics at the main government-run hospitals in the nation’s capital.
They say hospital rooms have faulty no heating system, causing patients serious problems in the harsh winter. Nurses on duty pay attention to those who grease their palms, visitors allege.
Attendants blast some midwives for angrily shouting at women in labour while others do not balk even at insulting them at the time of childbirth. This rough treatment delays and, in some instances, adds to childbirth complications.
Most of these complaints were shared with Pajhwok Afghan News by patient attendants at the oft-crowded Isteqlal and Rabia Balkhi Hospitals in the heart of Kabul.
Muzhgan recently gave birth to a baby at the Isteqlal Hospital, where she was recently operated upon. She was personally satisfied with the behaviour of doctors and hospital management.
But Muzhgan’s sister Aqila grumbles: “Midwives are a real nuisance. Female cleaners are also problematic and pay no attention to meeting patient needs until you pay them.”
She hit out at staff for refusing her entry into the ward. Additionally, the attendant grumbled, the cleaner did not bring the clothes of her sister and the baby until she was paid.
Aqila claimed paying the cleaner 100 afghanis each time to only for handing her sister’s clothes outside in the sun. The cleaner also sought cash when a patient was discharged from hospital, she added.
Another woman under treatment in the same ward, requesting not to be named, said cleaners remained unconcerned even if a patient died. Once paid, they did care for a while, she observed, citing the famous proverb: Money makes the mare go.
“However, the sister-in-law of a doctor was virtually pampered like a queen when she recently delivered herself of a baby here. Regrettably enough, other patients are treated like animals,” the woman remarked.
On the other hand, cleaner Pari Gul vehemently denied her colleagues or she herself had ever received illegal payments. Working at the hospital for several years, she said some attendants voluntarily offered them money in return for their services.
“No one is mad to misbehave with patients. Nonetheless we have to react when four to five attendants accompany a single patient,” Gul remarked, dispelling the impression that visitors were given short shrift.
Surprisingly, patients themselves tended to avoid speaking out against the hospital administration. Unlike their relatives, they somehow pretended to be satisfied with the overall state of affairs.
Lying on one bed along with her baby, Mariam described the attitude of nurses and doctors as satisfactory. No one had asked her for money, said the 25 years old, who indicated cleaners and nurses might have been paid by her husband.
The Isteqlal Hospital’s waiting room, with an unreliable heater, looked in pretty disorganised shape. At night, scores of female attendants sleep inside this shabby facility.
A woman, who slept here several nights, said: “It is our good fortune that today is sunny. The situation here is so bad on cloudy winter days. All women huddle together in this small room.”
Another attendant, named Razia, said: “I’ve have become sick due to cold and could not sleep due to illness. My daughter has undergone an operation and I have spent 72 hours in this situation.”
Her statement prompted other women visitors to gripe about bad smell coming into the waiting room from the sterilisation section. They asked the hospital management for the relocation of the waiting room.
The waiting room for men was also in a similar situation. Mohammad Hussain, extinguishing his cigarette: said: “Our room is icy; we have a small electric heater that can’t keep us warm. Chilly conditions don’t let us sleep a wink at night.” He spent seven days at the hospital.
Acting Director of Isteqlal Hospital Dr. Mohammad Sabir Naseeb confirmed the problems. However, he hoped the issues would be resolved with the inauguration of a new building, whose construction was almost 90 percent complete.
He admitted the hospital built in 1996 did not have the capacity to meet public needs. The hospital, having more than 500 personnel, contains a trauma centre, a maternity ward, a burn unit and a plastic surgery section. It is the biggest hospital in Kabul.
At the Rabia Balkhi Hospital, a frustrated woman griped: “I have brought my ill daughter here, but every medic wants money to help her. If I don’t pay, they would not treat her.”
Shah Jan, who paid different staffers 700 afghanis to take care of her daughter in the past two days, there was no place in the hospital for ablution and people had to use dirty toilets.
Rahmat Jan, whose pregnant wife was hospitalised, said no one told him about her condition. He said waited for several hours, but had no information on how his spouse in labour was doing.
The Rabia Balkhi Hospital is comparably good in terms of facilities but its reception room is not heated adequately either. Attendants in this room wrapped themselves in quilts.
One man even accused the doctors of recommending a cesarean section even if a woman was capable of a normal delivery. In this way, he charged, the doctors fleeced patients.
But the hospital director rejected the allegation and complaints as groundless. Dr. Mohseni Raqib Sediqi said: “We want the people receiving free healthcare services to comply with rules and regulations.”
She argued several relatives accompanying a single patient created problems for hospital staff. Relatives of big shots forced their way into hospital and thrashed the guards preventing them, she said.
Sediqi explained people would no longer throng Kabul hospitals if the security situation was improved in provinces. She asked public health officials to open branches of big hospitals in provinces.
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