Prisoners’ Hospital

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Hospital (DDUH), Hari Nagar, Delhi


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There is a government hospital in Delhi, the capital city of India, where all patients are prisoners; some live in a real prison, the Tihar Jail, and the rest live in emotional jails created by their illnesses. But this is where the similarity ends.




The Tihar prisoners don’t have to wait in queues as the Police constables accompanying them just barge in wherever required, handcuffs and all. It’s probably one of those few places where law breakers and law keepers walk hand-in-hand!

This hospital was established in 1970 and gets its name from the famous Indian philosopher and political activist Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. From 50 beds, it has  now grown to a 500-bedded hospital with a 24 hours’ open Casualty.

I have a deep, emotional connection with this hospital. It began about 25 years ago, around 1991, when I was a Medical Rep. in a pharmaceutical company and a visit to DDU hospital used to be a part of my monthly tour plan. I was a young, naïve, unmarried girl in my early 20s at that time.

During one of those visits, while I was coming down a crowded staircase, I ran into a handcuffed prisoner tied to a constable. Quite unexpectedly, the prisoner took out a letter from his pocket and handed it over to me. Hurriedly, he said, “Madam, isko please post kar dena (Madam, please post it for me). Without waiting for any reply from me, he turned around and kept walking. A few seconds later, he dissolved within the suffering mass of thronging humanity inside the hospital’s premises. For several seconds, I remained frozen and kept on holding the letter in my hand. As soon as I recovered, I went to the post office and got it posted.

It was the Gynaecology OPD that I always dreaded the most, but I couldn’t avoid it as it was a vital part of my tour plan. I still remember that incident when I came across a woman lying in a pool of blood  on the floor right outside the corridors. She was having a miscarriage while the world around her walked by in callous disregard…Something like this would probably not happen now.

Compared to other OPDs, Gynae. OPD was always the most crowded and getting undivided attention from the doctors used to be very difficult. I observed that they subjected every patient to an internal exam. The cries of pain that sneaked out through the curtains while I waited always made me cringe inside.  They gave me the first hint of the gruesomeness of becoming pregnant and having a baby.  I wonder why they don’t invent less humiliating and traumatic techniques of physical examination.

Once I heard a Gynae. doctor euphemistically advising a patient, “Yeh dawai roz lena aur apne pati se kuch din mat milna.” Translated into English, this means, “Take this medicine daily and don’t meet your husband for a few days…”

And then one day, while I was distributing free samples of my company’s anti-inflammatory enzyme and antibiotics to a group of Casualty doctors in DDU,  a severely wounded prisoner was admitted. All the doctors and nurses on duty rushed to attend to him.  Once he was seated on the bed, he coughed out blood. A few seconds later, some blackish-brown solid things popped out of his mouth and fell on the bed.  It was obvious that he was brutally beaten. Some of his internal organs had got dismantled and were expelled. He still had his handcuffs on him. It was a horrible sight and I just couldn’t bear to watch it any longer. I left in haste  and prayed that I never have to see anything like this again in my entire life.

Many years later, around 1999, I came to this hospital’s Emergency as a terrified mother with a badly injured and profusely bleeding child. I was pleasantly surprised to find the staff so prompt and efficient. By then I had already joined a different profession and I hardly knew anyone in the hospital. It is an open secret that to get best possible treatment in a government hospital in India, you need to have good ‘connections’ and I was happy to be proved wrong this time.

My most recent visit to DDUH was this month (May 2016). Not only was I treated well, I also found a lot of improvement in several areas. But there is still a long way to go.  ACs have been installed in the OPDs, but only those in the Paediatrics department were working. Wooden benches have been replaced by stainless chairs which are more comfortable. Toilets were horrible and running water was not available. At several windows, patients were waiting patiently in long queues. The only place where some amount of creativity and thought seemed to have been applied was the Paediatrics OPD.

It’s rather tragic that so many crores of rupees disappear annually in scams, while the general public battles it out in these poorly managed government hospitals. Chief Minister Mr. Arvind Kejriwal and Health Minister Mr. Satyender Jain, are you listening?

Here are some latest photographs, good, bad, and ugly. Ugly ones are in the end…

Good things first…






Pics from Paediatrics OPD (the only OPD where ACs were working…)



Now the Bad Ones…The grim realities…

Comfortable chairs, but long wait, non-functioning ACs, overcrowding, overworked staff



Ugly ones…Brace yourself for what will see now…

Dirty toilets, no running water, no housekeeping staff…(A suggestion to Mr. Satyender Jain: Hand over the toilets to Sulabh. They manage toilets very well).




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