As soon as the clock hits six in the morning, Salma jumps into action. She hurries towards the bathroom either to take a shower or save some water in a container.
But there’s completion. Most of the time the 35-year-old has to wait for a long time before she can use the facility, since many others form a queue there, as running water has become sort of a precious commodity at the wards of state-run National Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (NICVD).
Salma has been staying at Ward-1 of the 414-bed specialised hospital with a patient for the last six months. “The situation has been the same for as long as I have been here. From dawn to noon, there’s no water at the washrooms. We do get some afterwards, that too at intervals,” she told this correspondent recently.
“As soon as the supply starts, all of us stand in a queue to begin our day. Even patients have to wait in line. Water should be a basic amenity at a hospital but it’s not the case here,” she added.
Due to the crisis, patients and their attendees continue to suffer at the hospital. This interrupted water supply has also resulted in making the washrooms unhygienic.
But their sufferings do not just end there. There is also no source of drinking water at the wards.
“I have to spend around Tk 200 daily to buy water -- an added burden for me,” said Sohag Hasan, who has been staying at the hospital (Ward-1) for last four months for his child’s treatment.
This newspaper spoke to a number of patients and their attendees at the ward, who shared similar ordeals.
“There used to be no light in the washrooms. Only two toilets out of four had taps. We had to request the authorities for a long time to fix those, which they did recently,” said an elderly patient of by-pass surgery.
This correspondent also visited wards 2-5. The situation there was no better. In almost every ward, a group of people stood in a queue in front of the bathrooms while another group went outside to buy bottled water.
Just to give an idea, there are over 100 patients and their attendees in each ward against four toilets and four shower stalls.
Tamanna, who is staying with her sick father-in-law in Ward-5, said, “Not only do we have to look after patients, but also have to worry about water. There’s only one tap in the washroom here and it’s hard to use that because of the irregular supply and long lines.”
Meanwhile beside the washroom in Ward-5, water was draining down the wall due to an overflowing tank.
“It’s been like this for the last couple of days. Amid this crisis, such a waste of water is really a matter of shame,” said a patient in the ward, who is a plumber by profession.
According to hospital officials, some 91 cleaners work there, appointed by a third-party firm. Though this number should be sufficient to maintain a 24-hour roster, the patients said there is only one cleaner available in each ward.
“I work alone here [Ward-1] and irregular water supply causes a huge problem for me to clean the washrooms,” said Ranu, an elderly cleaner.
Surprisingly, hospital authorities seemed to be unaware of the problem.
After telling him about patients’ ordeals, Mahmuduzzaman, administrative officer (development), of the hospital, said, “We’re expanding our four-storey hospital to eight-storeys. Due to the construction work, there is a problem in water supply in the blocks.”
According to the officer, the construction work is going on for the last one year.
Rather than coming up with an alternative to ease patients’ and attendees’ sufferings, the authorities, however, have escalated it.
“We had to shut down several water tanks on the [fifth floor] roof,” said the official, adding that the problem in both the blocks would be solved soon.
Talking to The Daily Star, Prof Dr Mir Jamal Uddin, director of NICVD, also mentioned the year-long construction work as the reason behind irregular water supply.
Asked whether a hospital should continue construction without ensuring alternative source of water for patients and attendees, he said, “It should not be. I have taken responsibility a few weeks ago. I’m trying to resolve the issue.”
“We have set up a new pump recently and the problem is now almost solved,” he told this correspondent yesterday.
Upon his claim, The Daily Star contacted several sources to know about the situation at the hospital and found that the crisis remained the same as before.
Contacted again, the director admitted that the crisis persists. He, however, said, “I’m trying my best to solve it. I inherited these issues and eventually we will be able to sort these out, that much I can promise you.”
It is to be noted that NICVD handles patients more than double its capacity. Patients, however, said due to its cost effective and quality treatment, they often prefer to come here for healthcare services.
[All patients’ and attendees’ names have been changed to protect their identity.]