Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Apollo Hospital vows to be disabled-friendly

Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi is the First Hospital in India to be Internationally Accredited by Joint Commission International (JCI). It is one of the best multi-speciality tertiary acute care hospitals with over 700 beds in India and the most sought after destination in SAARC region for healthcare delivery.
The hospital website says, “Right from the infrastructure to the latest medical technology acquisition Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals has always kept its Patients First and strived to deliver not World Class but World’s Best Care to its Patients since its inception in 1996.” Even the last sentence of Chairman's profile on the site reads, “ have touched the lives of several hundred thousand children, differently-abled people, cancer and brain trauma patients."

Though, they are leaders at various fronts but when it comes to access to persons with disabilities, Apollo at Sarita Vihar, Mathura Road falls short. Recently, I visited the hospital to see a relative.

I had to meet a relative admitted in ICU. There is an ICU lobby with over 50 reclining beds where attendants can relax. The lobby was situated above gate no.4 and had no lifts. There were 22 steps which one has to climb. I asked for the lift but there was none. There was a longer passage to reach the area from different side but even from that side one has to get down 6-7 steps to reach the ICU lobby. A person with mobility impairment (like me) can only reach there with great difficulty. A wheelchair user can however, just not reach there. I lodged a complaint at the corporate desk and the person there said, ‘Sir it’s a matter of 7 steps only” I said , “ It’s not a matter of just seven steps, If you are boasting this of world class standard and international experience than you must provide the services also.”

I came out and went directly to the auditorium of Apollo. The place was still inaccessible. I had come to the same place in 2010 to attend a workshop. This time also, the passages leading to the basement auditorium doesnot have side railings/wall to support. One has to climb down 8-10 steps without support.  

I could not get down without holding someone else’s hand. Imagine Stephen Hawking to give a lecture at Apollo auditorium! Will you lift the wheelchair of the great scientist? Hospitals has the social accountability of providing reasonable accommodation to persons with disabilities and when you can’t provide the basic requirements of mobility and freedom you can not boast of International standards and exceptional health care.

 On the same day I wrote to Apollo officials and I am glad they responded. The Dy. General Manager – Operations, Dr Karan Thakur emailed me today:

We would like to apologise for not providing wheelchair accessible areas in the auditorium and other places mentioned by you. We are beginning the process of conducting a through audit of our public areas and will put in place access ramps and/or other means to ensure that areas not inaccessible for wheelchair bound persons.

It is our endeavour to provide quality healthcare to our valued patients and we take feedback from our patients and their families seriously, you will see a marked change in the area highlighted by you.

It was a reassuring response and I have no reason not to believe the leading hospital. Another point of note is the attitude of persons with disabilities who still shy from raising their voice. I am myself guilty that I didn’t raise the matter that vociferously in 2010. Lot of times, the invisibility of persons with disabilities, their lack of feedback presents a rosy picture which may not be so. We must raise our voice and help the government and private institutions in providing us reasonable accommodation.

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