Yesterday I went a government-funded hospital for the first time. After seeing how loud, dirty, and crowded it was, I came back to the nursing school feeling like I needed to lock myself in somewhere and cry. I couldn’t articulate the huge wave of emotions I felt, but luckily I had some time to sit and think about it.
What I felt was guilt. I wish that all of these people could receive the same hospital experience I would if I were sick. Going further into that, I cannot understand why I am the one on this end of the spectrum - healthy, educated, financially stable – while others live on the complete opposite of the spectrum. I did not choose the family I was born into, nor did I choose to be without congenital diseases. There are so many factors that interfere with our lives before we have the privilege of making a choice.
I believe that the United States does its best to eliminate these pre-determined factors (though I do acknowledge we have flaws). Our President is our finest example. However, with India’s system, those who are born at the bottom stay at the bottom. Thus, my guilt comes into play. I was lucky enough to be born in a land of opportunity and high expectations.
I could go on and on about the shocking sights and sounds of the hospital, but I do not believe that is fair. Going back today proved to me even more that even though this hospital is dirty, it is a step in the right direction. It manifests a system that even the United States (a first world country, I might add) does not have – free health care. In India, the poorest of the poor are given some safety net by being able to walk into a hospital if they are sick.
As I look back on it, the hospital system is extremely well-organized, and strives for similar standards of care that the US requires. This hospital is not perfect, but for being a free health care facility, it comes fairly close. Another problem I had at first was the lack of privacy from having so many patients in one room. However, the people of India are very family-based and do not feel the same lack of privacy as Americans would feel. The hospital staff does reinforce patient confidentiality, but all in all crowded is normal for them. Again, I am lucky enough to grow up with different expectations (private or two-person hospital rooms, clean floors, quiet surroundings).
What I really liked about the hospital, was that it was separated into male and female wards. Female wards are not allowed to have male attendings during the night shift. Most hospitals in India are like this. I think this is a really interesting idea in terms of patient comfort. It is an idea I have never even considered.
In terms of HIV/AIDS management, the hospital goes out of its way to ensure that the virus does not spread more than it has to. They treat their waste in a similar fashion to US hospitals, and have specific protocols for accidental needle stick injuries. The hospital also has two centers for HIV/AIDS patients, a unit for medications/patient information/counseling and a clinic. All paperwork is done by hand, and is systematically organized in a way that works for them.
In the end, government hospitals are a beautiful thing. They provide help to those who would not normally be able to receive it, and open up jobs for many educated people. What I am experiencing now is largely a cultural gap, but I hope with more experiences like these, I can understand Indian life much better.