The ward for destitute persons had been in news for the wrong reasons.

The nurses at Ward 9 of the city’s General Hospital looked far from hassled on Saturday morning even though the numbers should imply otherwise. There are 44 beds in this building, but 81 patients are now under treatment here. Even so, for the nurses here, the day was ‘easy’ considering how they have dealt with well over 100 patients with the same manpower and bedding capacity in the past.

“The building feels empty today, actually,” says one of the head nurses here, surveying the women’s wing. “But no matter how difficult things get, the work always gets done,” she adds.

Ward 9 has earned ill repute over the past few years with issues of staff shortage, congestion, and deplorable infrastructural conditions often being raised.

Nowhere to go

Housing the destitute has meant that patients keep coming in for treatment; but once they recover, they stay on since they have nowhere else to go. The building, thus, keeps filling up.

Spotlight

Since the death of a patient here last year brought the spotlight back on the ward’s condition, several organisations have extended their support — some occasional, while others deliver daily.

At the nurses’ office here, there is a ‘donation book’ that is filled with aid that has taken shape of adult diapers, soaps, lotions, bed sheets, towels, and clothes – items that are always welcome.

You would think that sheets and towels would last for a while, but the ailing patients here often lose control over their bodily motions, a nurse says.

Donation of towels

“Once we received a donation of 25 towels and in the next morning, I found only three being used. It turned out that the patients had soiled all the others and it was impossible to salvage them,” she says.

There are 12 nurses and nine home nurses in total, who work two shifts a day.

At a time, there may be only three to cater to all the patients in the building and it is difficult for them to watch over all and stop them from soiling themselves.

No bystanders

This is part of the job, they say. But the sad part about this particular ward is that practically all these patients are alone, which means that there is no bystander support for them, or for the nurses.

“In other cases, you can get a relative to collect blood test reports or fill out paperwork. They would be there to feed the patient, get spare clothes for them, and collect medicines. But here, they have no one,” says a home nurse.

But the hospital is aware of their unique situation and the nurse superintendent despatches staff from other wards on tougher days.

More stable

Superintendent Fazeelath Beevi says the situation is markedly more stable now.

“Support from outside has been consistent and if we can figure out a permanent way to shift the recovered persons to suitable facility rather than waiting for one of the few homes to have vacancy, it would ease affairs here,” she said.

Patients are generally transferred to care homes under the Social Welfare Department, but very intermittently.