Successive State governments have concentrated on improving healthcare in their public institutions in the past decade. The Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (GH) is an important beneficiary of various infrastructure development projects.

With its 176-year history and unique position in terms of location and facilities it offers, the hospital has remained in focus as “it is a great institution and among the oldest hospital in the country,” as Health Minister V.S. Vijay, an alumnus of the Madras Medical College (MMC) attached to the GH, puts it.

New buildings

Recognising the need for more space for expansion, the government decided to shift the college to a new campus. The seven-storeyed building, with each floor spread over 4,000 sq.m, being constructed on the erstwhile Central Prison complex would house MMC's non-clinical departments — anatomy, physiology, pathology, biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, forensic science and community medicine. It would also have classrooms for undergraduate students of nursing, pharmacy, occupational therapy, record science and students of diploma courses in dental hygiene and dental mechanics.

Built as per Medical Council of India (MCI) specifications at an estimated cost of Rs.56.67 crore, the classrooms would accommodate 300 students, said Dean V. Kanagasabai. There are also proposals to build a separate building to house the autopsy room, canteen, common rooms each for boys and girls, blood bank, workshop and animal house. These would occupy the ground floor while the first floor would have a 4,000 sq.m library and the second floor would have a 2,000 sq.m exam hall-cum-auditorium, with a capacity to seat 1,000 persons.

The college authorities have planned to seek a six-storeyed hostel to accommodate 900 women students. According to Public Works Department sources, the new buildings are expected to be completed as scheduled by September 2012.

Significant change

Shifting the college would provide the much needed privacy for students, who have had to contend with visitors to the hospital usurping their space. It is also expected make way for expansion of the hospital.

The GH, which gets a total of 9,720 people every day for treatment and twice the number coming to the hospital as visitors and patient-attendants, requires several facilities, including a modern morgue.

According to sources in the hospital, there is a shortage of freezer boxes, making it difficult for storage of bodies and slowing down the post-mortem procedures in some cases.

A significant improvement in the past few years is that in the general ward of the Institute of Neurology, patients are not seen lying on the floor, as was the case earlier.

Hospital sources said the pay wards are well-received and sometimes patients have to be wait-listed for a room. Often it is patients requiring orthopaedic and neurosurgery who are admitted to these wards, hospital authorities said.

While patients say the facilities are good and do not have complaints about the service of the hospital staff, hygiene is a matter of concern. Hitesh Kumar, who recently admitted his mother for treatment at the GH said, “The canteen should offer better quality food. They should ban sale of eatables outside the hospital as they are unhygienic.”

Nurses and security staff have a tough time preventing people from misusing the premises. “People sleep and eat wherever they please and dispose the waste without understanding the need for maintaining cleanliness. Even in the wards the situation is the same,” Mr. Hitesh Kumar said.

The hospital has around 570 nurses on its rolls. But, with each department providing specialised treatment, there is need for more nurses. In the last several years the hospital has been increasingly performing transplantation surgeries, giving rise to more intensive care units. The need for nurses exclusively trained in each speciality has also been felt, doctors said.

Additionally, the hospital also has a perennial shortage of lower level staff such as ward boys and sanitary workers. According to sources, recruitment of lower level staff has been stagnant for the past few years and that has resulted in poor attention to cleanliness. Although in the past months MoUs have been signed with several organisations for ward boys and for maintenance of the hospital, clearly there is room for improvement, doctors said on condition of anonymity.