The unfulfilled promises of Telangana Chief Minister KC Rao had pledged a ‘new building’ in 2015 to replace the outdated and dilapidated Osmania General Hospital building in Hyderabad.

At #KhabarLive, December is the follow-up month where we look back at previous news for a status report. This series aims to refocus attention on government commitments, revisit ongoing official investigations that ought to be finished by now, and revive long-dormant public interest problems.

K Chandrasekhar Rao, the chief minister of Telangana, paid a visit to the historic Osmania General Hospital (OGH) building in 2015 to assess its state. Soon after, he spoke to the media and said, “This structure was built roughly 110 years ago and is in terrible shape. Despite any renovations, we cannot maintain the building for longer than 4 years. It has little strength and could collapse at any time.

The hospital would be moved as a result of a decision the government made in this respect. Everyone would be relocated, and a new building would be built very quickly. We’ll let you know what sort of building would be built and how a renovated hospital would be built.

Telangana’s chief minister, K Chandrasekhar Rao, visited the historic Osmania General Hospital (OGH) building in 2015 to evaluate its condition. He addressed the reporters shortly after and declared, “This structure was built approximately 110 years ago and is in awful shape. We are unable to sustain the structure for more than four years, despite any improvements.

It is weak and susceptible to collapse at any moment. The government’s choice on this matter would result in the relocation of the hospital. A new building would be constructed fairly soon after everyone had been transferred. We’ll inform you of the design and construction process for a renovated hospital.

Patients suffer as a result of the structures’ current state

Nearly 2.5 years have passed since patients were moved to the OGH’s Out-Patient (OP), Emergency, and Quliquthubshahi blocks. The paucity of beds to serve the increasing number of patients has only made the problem worse since then. There is no lift facility in the Quliqutubshah block despite the addition of a floor. Patients continue to share beds, as visitors swarm into the crowded wards. The standard of care and the safety of patients and bystanders are both impacted by this.

Ramulu, a patient who was brought to the OGH in a medical emergency, was initially treated in an intensive care unit (ICU) ward before being moved to the general ward the next day. He was soon forced to lie down on the floor next to another patient’s bed with a blanket put nearby. Ramulu, who was still carrying pee bags and had a cannula attached to him, and his Badangpet-commuting companion had to wait agonisingly for a bed to open up.

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Similar to this, a patient with pancreatic issues who had travelled from a different section of the city was also forced to spend 24 hours on a stretcher while receiving saline drip injections within the ward. Another instance included a patient who was admitted following sudden convulsions was made to share a bed with an already-admitted patient. This is a familiar practice in the hospital and many of the beds that are meant for a single patient are often attached with two patient slips. 

“We have come from Begum Bazar after my husband faced a heart-related issue. We were not given a bed soon enough. It’s the same situation for many here. The doctors keep coming and giving treatment, but if there are no beds to sleep in, at least for the patient, how can we adjust?” questioned Saritha, a patient attendee.

Meanwhile, duty doctors have to physically search for their patients to locate them at peak hours. “At times, especially in the mornings when the patient inflow is high, we often get confused about our patients. We have to search under the beds because we never know whether the patient we are looking for is on the floor or somewhere on a stretcher since the availability of beds keeps changing,” shared a duty doctor in the ward. The ward, which ideally should accommodate 39 patients with its 39-bed count, has about 50 to 60 patients. The general ward is also now combined with patients from the orthopedic wing as there is not enough space for a separate orthopedic unit.

The duty doctor added, “Not just for patients, there is not enough space to store the medical supplies as well here. It’s always a haphazard situation. In the old building, there was enough space for each patient, and patients were neatly placed in separate units depending on their medical conditions. But now, it’s a mess.”

Current legal status

Earlier in March, the Telangana High Court constituted a committee with Engineers-in-Chief from various departments, as well as experts from IIT Hyderabad, and members of the Archeological Survey of India, Telangana, to study the structural stability of the Osmania Hospital building, the heritage building which was earlier the in-patient block. 

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The committee submitted its report in July before the High Court stating, “The condition of the building is not safe for use presently, and cannot be used for hospital purposes at all. However, the structure can be repaired and renovated so as to increase the life of the building and can be put to use after taking up repair works for non-hospital purposes. As it is a listed heritage building, appropriate conservation repairs are to be taken up under the supervision of the conservation architect.”

The government has not made it clear what its stand is officially, yet. Speaking to #KhabarLive, Dr Mahesh from the Healthcare Reforms Doctors Association (HRDA) stressed that though the committee has submitted its report, the government has not revealed its stand. 

“The government has to take some stand. We want to know whether the government is complying with the committee report or not – will a new building be constructed in the open space, what is the time period, what is the budget approval, and what is the estimate? – we don’t understand why they are taking so much time in arriving at a decision. There is no commitment from the government to build a structure for the OGH, I don’t understand why we have to go behind them again and again,” he said.

Doctors rally in protest

Meanwhile, members of the Osmania Junior Doctors Association (JUDA), Osmania Alumni Association (OAA), HRDA, Telangana Government Doctors Association, and a few others organised a rally from OGH to Osmania Medical college, recently. Around 200 students, doctors, and activists took to the streets to bring attention to the dire need for a new OGH building.

Dr. Vanya Jasmine, General Secretary, JUDA, explained to #KhabarLive the kind of issues the hospital faces due to the lack of a new building. “With the scarcity of beds and wards, there is a lot of confusion about patients at times, and we are not able to do justice to those who need medical attention. We don’t understand what we are doing,” said Vanya.

“At times, we have to send some patients home with insufficient treatment so that a more seriously ill patient can be accommodated in their bed. Earlier, if a patient was scheduled for surgery, we used to prepare them by performing an investigation and then keep them under observation.

Whereas now, after some tests, we have to send them home and ask them to come on the day of surgery so that hospital beds are available for others. But sometimes patients come from far away places and it is not feasible for them to do so many rounds,” she added. She also said that the glory of the Osmania hospital was also about the kind of treatment patients used to receive and not just the building. 

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Meanwhile, Anuradha Reddy, a heritage expert and member from INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage), made her stand clear at a press interaction that a new hospital should be built on the hospital premises without disturbing the heritage of the structure. 

Dr Srikanth, another member of the JUDA asked, “What’s the point in keeping a building that is dilapidated when no one can use it? It would be great if the same space can turn into a new hospital and regain its glory. Recently, the hospital had about 3000 admissions on December 1, which is a record, and the hospital could not provide efficient treatment to all of them due to the lack of beds. If there is a new building, it would be good for everyone.”

What does the government say?

When #KhabarLive approached the OGH superintendent B Nagender, he declined to comment on the issue. However, in a response to a question raised at the Telangana Assembly eight months ago, K Chandrasekhar Rao responded to MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi by saying, “I request Health Minister (Harish Rao) to take up the reconstruction of Osmania hospital in accordance with the heritage laws. We request the Chief Secretary to visit the hospital. We don’t want to let go of Osmania, but what can be done there? I request the Chief Secretary and the Health Minister to conduct a joint visit and see what can be done.”

The government has plans to develop a new building without causing any damage to the ancient heritage structure when the court gives its approval, according to Health Minister T Harish Rao, who made the announcement while taking part in a meeting in Karimnagar. According to a report, he also said that the decision was being postponed because some people had come to the court.

According to sources, the Telangana High Court has been deliberating on a number of Public Interest Litigations (PILs), some of which call for the demolition of an existing building and the construction of a new one, while others argue for the preservation of a historically significant property. #KhabarLive #hydnews #hydlive