Rampant with inequality, Pakistan is unfortunately, lacking the overall provision of “roti, kapra and makaan” for her population. With a considerably large sum of people living below the poverty line, these three means of survival are a hard find. Consequently, inequity in other spheres such as hospitals and their facilities comes as no surprise.
Disposal of hospital waste, in particular, has exhibited an all-time low for human inequality. This inequality is seen in health and sanitation services as some lives are preferred over others.
Inequality particularly manifests in posh hospitals within our capital city, “The green and beautiful Islamabad”
The greenery masks an innocent evil in our hospitals, which like most social occurrences, wreaks of class politics.
A man was carrying waste through a dingy alley in the posh hospital. His bare hands and face were quite alarming as he carried all sorts of germs in his arms. He carried it all away from people who could actually afford to pay the hefty emergency room fees.
The inequality is glaring. For just a couple of rupees as salary, a sanitation worker risks their life to ensure those inside are safe. Interestingly enough, there exists legislation to protect the hospital sanitation workers. According to Punjab’s rules and regulations report for the hospital waste management in 2014, sanitation workers must be equipped with proper gear at all times. This gear includes gloves, industrial aprons, face masks, boots and leg protectors. However, the man carrying the waste had none of the above.
With legislation in place, it is pertinent to question the accountability of such violations. Are the ratios of a hospital budget allocated on a class basis? Where the upper class is safe from health hazards while the lower class is not? It appears that is the case since a sanitation workers life is visibly priced much lower than those inside the hospital.
Labor inequality is not the only thing that makes hospitals a breeding ground for misplaced priorities.The infrastructure also shows how sanitation is an afterthought for hospital managements countrywide.
Most hospital interiors are a battle between functionality and beautification.
There is more stress on what type of granite graces the floors than how to clean it. Intricate nooks and crannies filled with germs, make sparkling clean hospitals an alternate reality of sorts.
Bright paintings line the walls, arguably to lighten the moods. Yet, the corridors elsewhere in the hospitals are dimly lit and create more depression than the opposite. It appears that the intricate marble detailing and fancy cornices are more of an attraction to dirt than the patient’s sore eyes. Hospitals are not places for aesthetic pleasure. They should be hubs for patient care optimization. If this means that there has to be a compromise on beauty, that would still be a profitable opportunity cost. A simple structure constructed with easy to clean materials should be made a priority over high-grade granite and marble.
Where is the politics in all this you ask?
It is captured in photo-ops and political visits. It wouldn’t be a fallacious assertion that such elaborate works of art are created in the name of photo-ops for politicians and even private sector gurus.
But, what happens once the inauguration photo-ops are over? The fancy tiles are left to collect dirt while the facilities at the hospital are heavily compromised. Patients line at unhygienic corridors and seepage runs through the walls as doctors struggle to provide care with limited means.
It is a valid question to ask here whether our hospital building codes assert simplicity or not. And, if there are codes in place, there is a country wide violation of them. This has contributed to the overall abysmal state of health and sanitation in the country, only adding to the tangled mesh of socioeconomic and political problems we face.