“My daughter saw them,” Shanti Raj told NDTV about the horrifying incident in the 300-bed district hospital of central Madhya Pradesh’s Chhindwara district, 300 km from state capital Bhopal. This was the second case of a patient being bitten by rodents in the last two months.
After NDTV carried reports about the incident this week, there were red faces in the state government and an inquiry was promptly ordered.
“Whosoever is responsible will be punished,” Aalok Shrivastva, the additional district magistrate of Chhindwara, a district in the state’s tribal belt, told NDTV.
“This should not have happened in ICU,” the senior district officer said.
But the hospital administration is no match for the rodents.
Dr Ajay Mohan Verma, the doctor in-charge of the ICU, said it wasn’t that they did not try.
The hospital has tried to look for a rodent control agency in Chhindwara to clear the place of the rats. “But we can tell you that we did not find any,” he said, helplessly.
Getting a bigger firm to carry out a more comprehensive clean-up would be a lot more expensive. Like the one that one of the state’s biggest hospital Maharaja Yeshwantrao hospital in Indore had done. That contract had cost the government a steep 55 lakh.
Three years back when rats damaged the hospital equipment in Chhindwara, it had experimented with an incentive scheme for staffers.
There was a Rs 10 reward for every rat that they catch.
Initially, the response was good and some 30-40 rats were caught in the first month or two. But after some time, the scheme fizzled out. So did the administration’s interest.
State government officials say the frequent instances of rats biting patients reflected poor sanitation and cleanliness standards in state-run hospitals, something that was a problem not just in Madhya Pradesh but in most parts of the country.
Just days before rats savaged Shanti Raj in Chhindwara, two elderly women in a municipal hospital in Mumbai were attacked by rats. In June, rats gnawed on a newborn’s fingers in Rajasthan and last October, another baby died due to bites in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kishtwar district.