My husband had been recently admitted to a hospital for an emergency surgery. He was in the ICU (Intensive care unit) on the first night under ‘intensive’ care and I thought attenders were superfluous ( some hospitals in fact want them to keep well away). My daughter persuaded me to spend the night in the plush bridal suite in her house, the one which had been got ready for her recently married son. So, the ‘day one’ rather ‘night one’ was spent in luxury and I slept well. As far as sleep is concerned I can sleep even if I am hung upside down like a bat.
But, once I came to the hospital, I was told that the hospital protocol required the attender (in this case, me) to be present for the patient on the premises all the 24 hours. Since my patient was shifted to a ward, I had an upholstered bench with a pillow to relax during the second night.
Next day, as his condition worsened, he was shifted back to ICU. This meant vacating the ward and finding a place for me to sleep in the common attenders’ room. No one was allowed to sleep on the visitors/patients chairs in the out patient waiting rooms. Refusing to sleep on the floor with the rest of the women, I insisted on sleeping on one of the few thin reclining chairs available amidst men. But the room was more like a railway waiting room with the TV blaring till 1.30 and men folk indulging in inconsiderate loud talk. Two nights were spent there.
By next night, the husband had been operated and was in the surgical ICU. I was told that a new posh room exclusively for the ICU attenders had been inaugurated. I went and had a look at the room. Oh! What luxury! Rather than a room, it was more like a multiplex theatre, with 20 laz-y- boy recliners arranged neatly in an AC room all facing a TV set decently muted. Just as I was about to establish myself on one of the recliners, the security in charge came and told me that the ladies were expected to sleep in the next room earmarked for them. Expecting a similar set up for the ladies, I was shocked to see that the room was absolutely bare except for 4 plastic chairs. In fact, it was a 4-bed ward (without beds/cots) and had been presently given to the ladies. While the room for men had hardly had two or three attenders with 20 recliners going abegging, the ladies in the next room were all sleeping in the cold AC room on sheets spread on the cold floor. My blood boiled to see the injustice of all. These people had paid lakhs and crores for the surgeries of their relatives but were expected to lie on bare ground! I asked the security man to pull out a couple of recliners from the next room and shift it for us ladies. He refused to do it without orders from his superiors. As it was late, I joined two plastic chairs and dividing my body between them, slept the night.
In the morning, I went to the reception and explained the problem to one of the girls there. She promised to get things done and told me that they would be attending to the problem within 15 mins. In spite of many reminders, ‘In 15 mins’ went on the whole day. I wrote a caustic complaint and sent it through housekeeping staff to the concerned person. Nothing happened.
In the evening, I charged once again into reception to lodge my protest at the inaction. The receptionist asked me to take a seat and promised to see it through to the end. After many telephone calls to the concerned people like floor manager etc. she told me that I had the permission to spend the night on the laz-y-boy in luxury. By the time I went back, the staff had intimated the policy decision to the ladies and they were all waiting for me, the heroine of the day to move in style to the Paradise aka ‘Gents’ room’.
When I entered the lounge, I was surprised to see a full fledged ladies’ toilet complex next to the men’s. How did a ladies loo come in the gents’ room?
After a restful sleep that night, I found a gentleman hovering around me in the morning and asking me if I had spent a restful night. I came to know later that he was the person to whom I had sent the written complaint. I asked him if he had received my letter and asked for the reason for this sexist bias. He told me that the ‘men’s room’ was actually meant to be a common room. Since they presumed that some ladies preferred to stay in privacy, the other bare room had been given. I asked him how he could presume such a thing without even intimating the ladies about the availability of a common room. He mumbled unconvincingly that there was a communication gap between him and his staff!
Next night, my husband was shifted to a private ward and I was back on my attender’s upholstered bench with the pillow. But I was highly gratified to see the new lady attenders being escorted to the common room (and there were hardly any customers for the spartan ladies’room). Each lady was occupying one laz-y-boy recliner though the security staff tried to retain a semblance of their control by saying that a maximum of five ladies only were allowed to stay in the common room!