POOR PATIENTS AND SERVICES SUFFER AT THE ST. STEPHEN HOSPITAL IN NEW DELHI
A press conference was held at 4 pm on the 27th of September by ‘The Friends of St Stephen’s Hospital’ and a resolution was passed. They strongly condemned the commercialisation of services at the St Stephen’s Hospital and demanded that poor patients will not be turned away for want of resources, and that patients will not be transferred to government hospitals for lack of funds. The 127-year old St. Stephen’s Hospital, Tiz Hazari, New Delhi is in crisis with its high-handed management and a group of senior doctors who form the backbone of its unstinted service orientation crossing swords over the future direction and mismanagement of the hospital. Till recently, the institution was a charitable hospital well known throughout the city and country for its free services provided to the poor. St. Stephen’s was the oldest private charitable hospital in Delhi. Its motto is “in love serve one another”.
All of what it represented for many decades seems to be changing of late. The ethos of public services is being eroded. Doctors who have dedicated their lives to uphold these values are undergoing tortuous ordeals inflicted by a high handed management. Senior doctors have been feeling that the management was behaving in arbitrary and authoritarian manner. When concerns were voiced about this, it was perceived as rebellion.
The Hospital, which has a bed strength of about 600, is a super-specialty tertiary care centre offering medical care in all specialties. Most super specialties have raised charges for all treatments, procedures and tests, and this was opposed by some physicians who are now facing harassment from the Hospital administration.
The ethos of the Hospital of service to the poor is steadily being eroded. It is difficult for poor patients to get discounts. The poor patients who are approaching the hospital are being directed to the nearby government hospitals. The hospital lost its charitable status. It also lost the CGHS and DGHS empanelment. This is a huge loss of goodwill and income to the hospital. The Hospital is under the aegis of the Church of North India (CNI) which has vast properties in its name. Some churches all over the world and in India have come under the spotlight for commercialisation of fundamentally spiritual and charity-oriented activities.
With these concerns, macro and micro, a large number of individuals, long associated with this hospital have come together as ‘Friends Of St. Stephens Hospital’ to raise awareness and bring back the old glory of the Hospital. They find reprehensible the dictatorship style of functioning and deplore the loss of democratic space. They will examine the reasons for the complete silence of Board members and collusion with the Director. They are shocked that leaders of wealthy Church related institutions seem to care less for the poor than Civil Society.
Eminent social activist Harsh Mandar stated that “the health care is the right of every human being and should not be allowed to be commercialised . At a time when health services in even public hospitals have become poor in quality and unaffordable patients with grave ailments , the contribution of a public service hospital like St. Stephen’s is like a beacon for both private and public hospitals . In this situation, it is very distressing to hear reports of the commercialisation of health services in St Stephen’s . It is even more distressing to hear of the crushing of dissent of those public spirited doctors who oppose these trends .The public service quality of St Stephen’s must be preserved as a precious national resource for the city’s poor”.
The assembly demanded that an independent inquiry must be conducted into why St Stephen’s Hospital has abandoned the path of providing high quality services to the poor and needy and begun catering to the needs of the rich. As a beginning in this direction, the Friends of St Stephen’s have also constituted a Citizen’s Fact Finding Team that will conduct a preliminary investigation in this matter. The fact finding committee will comprise of civil society members , lawyers and journalists and the first report to be tabled within one month and made public.
Jan Swasthaya Abhiyan