It is early August and the heat is intolerable inside the labour room of Lal Ded Hospital. Yasmeena Ishtiyaq lies still on a rusty metal bed and from time to time a low moan passes between her dry lips. Yasmeena, a slim and fair lady, looks tidy in her wrinkled nightie.
It is evening and there is a lot of movement inside the labour room of this large hospital. The doctors and the staff flow in and out of the room. A group of nurses chat at a table, a cleaner mops the floor. The doctors look tired. The hum of old ceiling fans blends in with the screams of the patients.
Yasmeena is perhaps the only patient in the room who is not screaming and crying for the attention of a doctor. A young lady doctor nonetheless steps in to check her. “Still you have to wait for a few hours,” she says. Her pain gets worse. Her eyes become moist, the dry lips turn dryer and she gives a moan again: “Ya Allah! Meh Peth Kar Raham ! Bi Moyas! (God, Please have mercy on me, I am dying),” she says.
Yasmeena has travelled more than one hundred kilometers to give birth to a baby and she was never ready to see what she has to put up with ever since she got here. “The sights and sounds in the labour room are terrible and disturbing,” says another woman who gave birth to a baby two days ago. “Some nurses use verbal abuse and routine violence like slapping and pinching,” she says.
Another woman, Naseema, a resident of Khrew, was hit by a nurse when she cried in labour. A few said they were treated like they were animals. “I like to go for a caesarean than face this humiliation in the labour room,” says, a young women, Sadiya.
Yasmeena, 29, a resident of Anantnag, had felt a pain in the early morning of a recent day and her husband decided to admit her to the Lal Ded hospital, where she shared a bed with two other women. Around 1:30 PM, when she felt a sharp spam of pain, her mother fought with one of the nurses to get her daughter into the labour ward.
A moment later, in the late evening, a nurse is back accompanied by a young lady doctor. The 29-year-old lady’s face is full of fear and anxiety. Next to her, a female nurse stitches the birth canal of another lady, Asiya, a 28-year-old from Pulwama.
Asiya’s condition disturbs Yasmeena more. A nurse injects her with a local anaesthetic. A lady doctor arrives and takes charge. After half an hour, a boy was born to Yasmeena. The doctor advised the nurse to see her birth canal. She cries, bites her lip and squirms. In a couple of minutes, the doctor and nurse leave. A cleaner arrives to mop the floor below her delivery table.
Now, Yasmeena is calm and looking at her new born with a weary happiness. The nurses who assisted the doctors are cheerful after Yasmeena’s delivery. “She was a good patient,” they say, outside the labour room. “She did not create any drama. Some patients don’t have patience and create a trouble. They shriek and cry.”
The data of the hospital shows that on an average 70 – 80 surgeries are conducted each day.
The young lady doctor in the hospital says, “It is true that staff sometimes lose their temper. But slapping is very rare. We are very concerned about such bad practice. Things are much better than they used to be, ten or even five years ago. Labour is a very painful and long-drawn-out process, the second stage of labour especially is intense, and sometimes the staff loses their temper.”
“Some women are very scared and the pain disturbs them. In the present set up, an epidural is being given to the patients for painless delivery, but it sometimes lower down the energy because the mother has to push the baby out. Most of the patients get so tired that they are not willing to try further and the doctor rushes them straight for a C-section, to avoid the complications that may lead to the loss of the baby,” says another lady doctor. In the last three months, the total number of births given in the hospital was 24,446. Neonatal deaths were 117 and maternal deaths were 4.