It was around noon. The 2nd and 3rd floors of the old home and hospital were quieter than its ground and 1st floors.
The post-operative ward for male patients, which is in a corner on the 2nd floor, was locked with empty beds inside.
“Forty percent of our patients are senior citizens and about 60% of them are young,” said ASM Atiqur Rahman, secretary general of Bangladesh Association for the Aged & Institute of Geriatric Medicine (BAAIGM).
Established in 1960 and run by BAAIGM in the capital’s Agargaon, the old home is part of a non-profit social welfare project, which is partly funded by the government.
“People think it is a hospital only for the old, but actually it is a general hospital where people aged above 60 receive treatment at a reduced rate and those who are life time members get a 50% discount. The poor, however, get totally free treatment,” Rahman said.
Rahman was talking about the hospital attached to the old home. He said they are having difficulty attracting patients to the hospital because many people do not know about it.
In the 50-bed hospital, there are four wards: two for males and two for females, and each ward has seven beds. Only three wards were found occupied.
Five young women were convalescing in the post-operative female ward. There were also two elderly women in the female ward and one middle-aged man in the male ward.
A long-term resident of the home, however, said the hospital could not provide comprehensive medical treatment and care for old-age complications. A doctor of the hospital also echoed the resident while talking to this correspondent.
This correspondent met the resident when he was helping an old lady in a wheel chair to move to the female ward on the 2nd floor from her room on the third.
He loudly called the home staffs several times to take care of the paralysed lady but received no response.
“She recently came back from the Nueroscience hospital but as her movements are restricted she was advised to stay in the female ward for a few more days,” the resident said, wishing anonymity.
“But as you saw, we hardly get any service from the staffs of the hospital and home, both of which are understaffed,” he said.
Though the sign on the gate of the institute reads “Prabin Haspatal” (Senior Citizens’ Hospital), most of the patients waiting for treatment at the outpatient department (OPD) of the hospital were young.
“The hospital lacks the capacity to treat multi-factorial disorder, which is faced by most senior citizens,” said a doctor, also wishing anonymity.
She pointed out the lack of necessary medical equipment and experienced staff required to provide the special medical care for older people.
“If a patient becomes bed-ridden, we usually refer to nearby special hospitals including the heart and kidney institutes of Agargaon and also Ibrahim Cardiac at Shahbag,” Atiqur Rahman said, adding the hospital needs fund to purchase new equipment, and psychologists and nurses trained in geriatric care.
The hospital has 96 staff including 21 doctors, six nurses and administrative officers, said Abul Rahman Sarker, social welfare officer of BAAIGM.
According to Sarker, BAAIGM gets Tk 3.5 crore from the health ministry per year.
Nevertheless, older patients getting OPD service were happy with the treatment.
MD Shahajahan Mia, 71, has been coming to the hospital over the last 10 years. “The physiotherapy here is good and the medicine and dental services are also less expensive,” he said.
Former banker, Safiul Alam, 65, who got admitted at the hospital with complaints of low blood pressure, appreciated the friendly attitude of the doctors.
However, his daughter complained of a shortage of hospital ward boys and ayas. “There’s only one person on duty per shift, so if we go to a cabin, we can’t attend to the call of other patients,” said a sister, wishing anonymity.
Geriatric medicine consultant Sk Lutfor Rahman has been with the hospital since 1974, 14 years after its inception. “I mostly get patients with gastro-intestinal problems. But some also come with respiratory issues,” he said, adding that most of the patients were from middle to lower income classes.
He said the hospital’s services should be extended so that old people who have been abandoned by their family could be given medical treatment for free.
Source: The Daily Star