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28/06/16: Doctors fall ill as food safety goes awry

Gandhi-HospitalDoctors at India’s Gandhi Hospital and Osmania General Hospital are regularly falling ill thanks to the poor hygiene at the mess being run at the two hospitals.

Common complaints being made by the duty doctors after having their meals at the mess include vomiting sensation, stomach ache and low grade fever. In rare cases, a few have come down with typhoid too.

In fact, the situation is worse at the Gandhi Hospital mess above the emergency block, with the doctors claiming that it is infested with rodents.

“It’s the worst place to have food, but we are helpless as 70-80 duty doctors working for 24 hours at a stretch cannot bring food from home. I have an upset stomach now,” said a senior doctor at Gandhi Hospital on condition of anonymity.

The mess at the hospital neither has a fridge to store vegetables nor proper containers to store cooked food. One can see rotten tomatoes, chillies and other vegetables left to dry on pieces of paper and half-eaten food kept in dirty plastic containers without lids. Leftovers from lunch being served for dinner is also quite common. Adding to the troubles is the fact that the wash basin is situated in the common eating area itself.

“Poor quality food in unhygienic conditions could lead to acute gastroenteritis, hepatitis infection, food poisoning, fever and typhoid. Though we are supposed to be served eggs, milk and fruits every day, it’s never followed,” said Dr R Raghu, general secretary of the Gandhi Hospital unit of Telangana Government Doctors’ Association. He also alleged that inspectors from the food safety department have never come to test the food samples.

The situation at the Osmania General Hospital is much the same. “Two months ago, I was down with abdomen pain and fever after eating at our mess. We brought up the issue of unhygienic condition at our mess with the authorities, but to no avail ,” said a third year postgraduate medico at OGH.

Doctors also alleged that the menu card, which was prescribed by the director of medical education (DME) for duty doctors in teaching hospitals, is only on paper.

“It is quite unfair that the government spends a measly Rs 82 per doctor to provide them food during duty hours. It must be hiked to Rs 150 per day so that better quality food can be served in hygienic conditions,” said Dr G Srinivas, president, Telangana Junior Doctors’ Association.

This is truly a nightmare to the duty doctors, who cannot go out to have the food leaving the job, during working hours.

However, when contacted, both OGH and Gandhi Hospital authorities denied the allegations. “The hospital food is served to both doctors and patients only after it passes quality tests every day. However, if any individual doctor has any issues, it can be brought to our notice,” said Dr G V S Murthy, superintenent, OGH.

In the case of Gandhi Hospital, Dr S V Masood, deputy superintendent, said there was no problem. But he promised to get food samples randomly picked and tested at their microbiology department from now on.