The Importance of Small Things in Hospitals

Here are a bunch of ‘small’ things I noticed during the 3 days I attended on my father, who underwent prostate surgery in a South Delhi hospital a couple of weeks ago. On their own, they really do not count for much and I am sure they did not impact the care my father received during his convalescence. However, do they add up to a less than satisfactory customer experience, I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

1. Right behind my father’s pillow, on the wall there were stains, which looked like congealed blood. In two places in the room, the plaster had pealed off.

2. The walls had marks, most probably made by the patient beds rubbing against them particularly when the patients are transferred from the room. The walls look like they need a fresh coat of paint.

3. The patient beds had mechanical controls requiring a lever to raise or lower them. The lever jutted out from under the bed and when not in place, one could safely conclude that it had been borrowed by the patient in the next room.

4. There were for some reason no curtains around the patient’s bed.

5. The sofa cum bed meant for the attendants had a ragged worn out handrest.

6. There appeared to be hoards of people in the in patient areas. The hospital corridors were always humming with either hospital staff or patient attendants. Many whiled away their time at the bustling nursing station, which also appeared to be the hospital staff’s favourite spot for socialising.  Attendants merrily browsed through patient files, their own as well as anyone else’s.

7. All the trolleys used for transporting food, medicines, linen etc. squeaked to high heavens. Someone just forgot to have their wheels greased in a long time.

8. There is nothing called ‘Do not Disturb’ sign in the hospital room. On a particular day we had 16 different set of people requesting permission for something or the other. When does a patient get to rest?

9. Newspapers were never delivered in patient rooms, while a huge bunch lay about at the Nursing station.

10. The F&B services really take the cake. On day 01, my father was served soup and sandwiches 5 times. The same soup and the same soggy sandwiches all the time. The next day, he did not get anything to eat till lunch because the dietitians thought that he was to undergo a surgery that day, never mind that that the surgery was scheduled the next day! The rice was served on the tray mats and one was to eat straight from there. In spite of requesting for a non-vegetarian diet, he received a vegetarian meal and the best of all, even after clearly indicating his allergy to egg (boldly mentioned on his medical file for all to see except the dietitians!), he did manage to get an omelet for breakfast.

11. The hand sanitizer was empty and was removed on my request. The new one never materialised.

12. My father was taken for an ultrasound. He was wheeled out on a wheel chair and taken to the radiology department and was kept waiting there for 40 minutes, with his bladder full. Apparently no one coordinates this. The OPD and the IPD patients are taken down Radiology and than they await their turn, without anyone knowing how the system works. (Strangely, when I screamed at a lady sitting in one of the offices adjacent to the Ultrasound room, my father had his ultrasound on the double).

13. Finally, I pointed out a small mice which ran around in the area occupied by the hospital’s TPA executive.

Looked in isolation these incidents perhaps do not amount to much. Some may even accuse me of nitpicking but the fact remains I did notice all this and it made me immensely sad. This is a hospital I was involved with during its early days and I am fully aware of its founder’s commitment and the high standards he had set towards patient care.

While my father had a uneventful surgery and a quick recovery for which I am immensely thankful, the customer experience was really not something to write home about. I wish someone, somewhere is listening.

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