How female-friendly is our healthcare? It’s more than a female thing
I had never realized the extent of gender-sensitivity that our healthcare needs to think about until I heard of some of the ordeals our female citizens have had to go through in local hospitals across the country. These ordeals may be subjective but when too many people have similar subjective experiences, they can hardly be written off. These experiences of ‘preventable inconveniences’ are far too regular and can be avoided with just slight changes in the system.
Some women shudder at the word ‘ultrasound’. It is not merely a case of once bitten forever shy! You can interview some women who have gone for ultrasound yourself. Here is the general procedure. The patient is called at 9:30 sharp in the morning and instructed to come with a “full bladder”. They go there shortly before 9:30 hoping to grab the earliest spot. They strictly follow the instructions and drink the required amount of water at the right time. But they slowly begin to discover that so many other patients are congregating all at the same time. It appears that every one of them has been given the same time. The bladder begins sending signals that it can’t hold off any longer. They ask the staff when their turn is coming. “Just wait for a bit” comes an almost mechanistic answer.
It is now 11 o’clock. There is no apologetic gesture from any of the staff for such an inordinate delay causing unbearable and an unexplainable ordeal. The most frustrating thing one can discover then is that some sly ones are clandestinely jumping the line. These privileged patients come much later than many of these already suffering women. They get called into the ultrasound room out of turn just because they have a direct link with some hospital staff. Well, it may happen everywhere – but for those who are grappling with a full bladder for hours on end, it seems like one of the most heinous crimes. Finally, at about 12 the turn comes for some of those who have been waiting from before 9:30. With their bladder ready to blow into smithereens at any time, they go in for the long cherished ultrasound. But the worst is yet to come. Technicians, seemingly blissfully unaware of the long wait his/her clients have gone through, push their stomach with all their strength as if to check the endurance of their bladder. Pushing the stomach is part of the process and must be tolerated. But if only the wait was shorter, the ultrasound experience would be so much better.
When the ultrasound is over, the first thing these patients want to do is obviously to visit the loo. “Where is the loo here?” they ask. Sometimes they are directed in the wrong direction. Some toilets are locked. They finally find a loo. But the problem is it is a western toilet. It is problematic because a western toilet in a public lavatory in our country is invariably too dirty to sit on. The toilet seats look horribly wet and dirty. The list goes on and on – all for a simple ultrasound.
Why doesn’t hospital management look into these issues with sympathy and consider such aspects of gender-sensitivity?
The experience in some gynaecology cabins can be disconcerting – so I have been told. There is hardly any privacy with a threadbare curtain that barely meets and staff coming and going. Any woman, already feeling uncomfortable due to the upcoming examination would desire a lot more privacy. Some gynaecologists are pushy and loud, telling off their clients not to feel too ashamed – seemingly oblivious to the male patients waiting outside the room.
Another area where our hospitals need massive up-gradation is in the labour room. I have sometimes felt that one of the reasons for the declining fertility rate in Sikkim could be attributable to the poor condition of labour rooms. I am not downplaying the complicated nature of infertility issues and we must collectively take it seriously. Scientific researches must be encouraged to delve deeper into our ever-intensifying infertility problem. However, ideally speaking, not many women would like to go back to the labour room again – not because of the indescribable travail but also because of the utter lack of privacy in labour rooms.
The significance of childbearing can never be gainsaid. They – both mother and child – deserve the support of the highest degree. In a true sense, the degree of any society’s respect towards women can be gauged from the kind of treatment it gives to women in labour.
Sikkim should and can afford world-class labour rooms with ultra-modern equipment. That would be one of the best gifts to Sikkimese women. Sikkim must explore the possibilities of providing fully equipped individual labour rooms. But these facilities without well-trained midwives/nurses would be an utter wastage of resources. I do not know much about the training labour nurses receive in Sikkim. However, with the little I have heard, my conclusion is that there is room for improvement.
In Sikkim, thankfully there are some awareness programs about menstrual cycles and related issues going on – particularly at the school level. This is a welcome move. However, much is left to be done. The government and NGOs need to develop special washrooms with sanitary napkin dispensers, and disposal facilities in frequently visited public places.
Sikkim must also be more sensitive to nursing mothers. Nursing rooms and diaper changing stations must now be factored in while designing public infrastructures and such facilities can also be installed in old infrastructures.
This is hardly an exhaustive analysis at all the gaps that women encounter in our healthcare. It is time to talk about them and look for ways to resolve them – one after the other.
“The experience in some gynaecology cabins can be disconcerting – so I have been told. There is hardly any privacy with a threadbare curtain that barely meets and staff coming and going. Any woman, already feeling uncomfortable due to the upcoming examination would desire a lot more privacy. Some gynaecologists are pushy and loud, telling off their clients not to feel too ashamed – seemingly oblivious to the male patients waiting outside the room.”
By Jiwan Rai, the author can be contacted at email@example.com
NB: Views/Opinions expressed in the article or write up is purely of the author or writer and not of the Sikkim Chronicle. For any queries or contradictions, the author can be contacted in his/her email id.