28 Feb 2024  |   05:03am IST

Time at the GMC

Among the things I observed was that the same team of doctors was on duty virtually twenty-four hours seven days a week, with little respite. Patients were lined up for procedures with factory-line regularity
Time at the GMC

Radharao F Gracias

Some three decades ago my visits to Goa Medical College (GMC) were regular; it was the only hospital to which patients flocked. I was there, usually as a visitor to see some relative, friend or voter. The situation changed when Goans began to be flush with petro/cruise ship dollars later replaced by Portuguese passport fuelled Euros.  The GMC was relegated to the background, as it became a status symbol to be treated at private hospitals, which kept sprouting up, to harvest the foreign remittances from gullible Goans. My visits to GMC got reduced.

My wife was diagnosed with acute artery blocks in September last; angioplasty was no solution. Urgent by-pass surgery was recommended. Well-meaning persons suggested hospitals in Mumbai/ Belgaum/Bangalore. The choice in Goa was between two private hospitals facing allegations of unconscionable extortion and the GMC. At the urging of doctors, within my extended family, coupled with accessibility, we opted for the GMC. Above all it was near unanimous opinion in medical circles that GMC had a team of cardio-vascular surgeons comprising of Dr Shirish Borkar and Dr Jagganath Kolwalkar, as good as any, that forced the choice. I had to virtually camp at Bambolim for four distraught weeks breathing in the sorrows of other visitors in the same gloomy predicament as myself.

My wife was wheeled into the Operation Theatre before 8 am; the wait was long and nerve-wrecking. It was almost twelve hours later that Dr Shrish Borkar called me into the annexe to his chamber with the uplifting news that the surgery was successful. She would remain in the ICU for the whole week with no access to family. It was a further three weeks before she was discharged. The surgeons proved to be as good as they were said to be.

 Among the things I observed was that the same team of doctors was on duty virtually twenty-four hours seven days a week, with little respite. Patients were lined up for procedures with factory-line regularity. The surgeons took the stressful activity in their stride, as a matter of course. 

Hanging around the GMC became unavoidable.  The conversations were all disconsolate, occasionally interesting titbits could be overheard. One particularly exacting afternoon I was   standing in the shade outside the OPD entrance; two employees were discussing forthcoming retirement parties of their colleagues. Said one, “Ours is scheduled for next Saturday.” “Our man has postponed his to the next,” responds the other. “But, Why? After all there are two halls which could be independently used,” the conversation continued.

 “Have you not noticed that scores of people get admitted to GMC due to food poisoning after attending parties? You see, if both parties are held on the same day, the invitees will eat at one and then attend the other. So no one will know which party has caused the food poisoning, if it does occur; thus it is advisable to hold parties on different dates!”

 “But why do   both not engage the same caterers? Then the culprit would be the same and therefore identifiable with ease”. “The trouble is your boss has engaged (he names a caterer) whose food is cheap and tasteless with questionable hygiene. Mine feels, that on retirement he must not leave behind a bad taste in the mouth and a churning in the stomach, thus has engaged (names another caterer). Pricey he may be, but safe!"

  I cannot help but comment on the cleanliness of the GMC; now it is far cleaner and better organised than earlier. And the six storied annexe some distance away fully air-conditioned is virtually five stars; patients are issued tokens in the order of arrival   and have ample seats to relax as those ahead in the queue are examined and discharged. The ambience is such that patients may even wish to fall sick, just to return back!

The cleanliness made me investigate the force behind the hygiene. The answer was Viswajeet Rane, the Minister for Health who I understand takes personal interest with frequent unannounced visits to keep everyone on tip toes. I only wish other ministers had followed suit with departments, under their command.

The cleaning staff came twice a day to mop and clean; I spoke to all of them. And nearly all came from Sattari-Sanquelim and clearly were well trained and fit for the jobs, they did. I could see that the minister had done a good job of training his voters in their preferred occupations, not excluding toilet cleaning.

Now let me take you to the Legislative Assembly debates a few years ago; Pratapsingh Rane CM of the State several times, MLA for an uninterrupted fifty years and father of present Health Minister stood up and derided Goans  for cleaning toilets at the Heathrow Airport, London. Now, will someone tell me, why did Pratapsingh Rane have to go to Heathrow to find Goans cleaning toilets when scores of his own voters clean toilets here in Goa? How come despite fifty continuous years of him being MLA his own voters still work as toilet cleaners?  Why is a toilet cleaning job good for Goans doing so in Goa and bad for Goans doing the same in the UK?

Thankfully his son does not think the way the father did; the health minister manifestly has a healthy respect for toilet cleaners.

Post operation, my wife is on the way to recovery. The surgery and the medication have had a magical effect, as she regains her vigour. Whatever reservations I had about treatment at the GMC have gone flying out of the window.  However, the medicines seem to have had some unforeseen but salutary side effects; my usually ever smiling but tongue-tied wife is now more articulate and voluble than she ever was; my debating skills (must I add well-known!) recede into inconsequence. I am now seriously considering deputing her to replace me on a debate, when the next opportunity arrives! 

There was a virtual ‘operation   flood’ when the call went out for blood. The force above too responded positively to prayers from every book and nook. I cannot be but grateful to all of them. And in particular to the surgeons, Dr Shirish Borkar and Dr Jagganath Kolwalkar.

(Radharao F Gracias is a senior Trial Court Advocate, a former 

Independent MLA, a political activist, with a reputation for oratory and interests in history and ornithology)


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