Doctors at the Government Children’s Hospital in Egmore are constantly waging a battle to ensure safe passage for their patients and their attendants. Unless the bunk shops lining the hospital’s compound wall are removed, their patients will continue to battle infections, the doctors say.

The hospital is a 500-bed facility but at any given time, there are 725 patients being treated as inpatients. Since the patients are children, they are accompanied by their parents adding to the space constraint at the hospital. The space along the compound wall of the hospital — which is on Halls Road — has been taken over by vendors. On Monday, a bunk was installed, making it the fourth on the stretch.

There is also an autorickshaw stand. Goodwill, the autorickshaw union which has obtained permission from the police to park only two vehicles there, has amended the permit letter in blue ink to make it appear as if they have permission to park five autorickshaws.

As Halls Road is also a bus route and there is a bus stop close by, commuters are forced to stand on the road. During the outpatient hours from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., it is a struggle to get into the hospital not only for doctors, but also for ambulances, doctors said. At least 2,000 people visit the hospital every day.

For several years now the hospital authorities have been writing to the Chennai Corporation asking them to remove these shops.

The authorities’ appeal to the police has gone in vain as the shops, which sell plastic items and junk eatables, have been set up there with the consent of the high court. “All of them have obtained an order from the high court on the grounds that they are handicapped,” a senior doctor said. Since the footpath is occupied, children and their attendants are forced to walk on the road.

A gastroenterologist at the hospital said that everyday she receives around 30 to 40 new patients.

“Even those who are admitted to the hospital get new infections. We are seeing more jaundice, hepatitis A infections and diarrhoea cases. Parents buy the junk food from these shops and give it to the patients too, aggravating their condition,” she said.

A senior neonatologist suggested that declaring hospitals ‘protected zones’ like schools, would ensure better maintenance.

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