Monday’s OPD

Nobody knows where to go next. If a security guard starts reading one slip, four to five more patients come with their slips. And then there is no end.

Monday’s OPD

(Photo: SNS)

Monday’s OPD at Safdarjung Hospital is unbelievable. Just as the Sun rises, the OPD’s main hall starts receiving visitors. Within an hour, there are about a thousand of them spread all over the hall.

The gathering grows into several thousand as the day gets warmer, and the registration counters open. But there is no end to the arrival of patients. The shyness of Covid days is all gone.

The patients enter the hall and explore where to begin. They are coming from Delhi, NCR towns, and much beyond, traveling for hours to reach the place. A massive army of security personnel is engaged in keeping them in orderly queues.


There is a large reception office which guides the first-timers where to go. Still, the security staff is much sought after for guidance. The security men get queries from first-timers and from those who already have hospital slips.

Nobody knows where to go next. If a security guard starts reading one slip, four to five more patients come with their slips. And then there is no end.

Finally, he has to find a way to stop being the local guide and attend to his work. But for these men in uniform, many a citizen in pathetic condition would not reach their destination.

There are over 20 counters where the visitors can register as patients and get hospital slips to see doctors. The registration of patients is done from 8.30 am to 11.30 am. There are separate queues for senior citizens and their “repeat” visits. There are some queues for pathological tests.

The registration counters for some categories of patients reopen at 1.30 pm. In the intervening hours, the OPD hall becomes a waiting room for hundreds of patients and they relax on the floor, eating food or catching some sleep.

Mothers look after their infants. The hall is cooled and has about 50 ceiling fans. The patients are coming up to avail of the government medical services in large numbers.

There are separate OPD registration counters for hospital staff and CGHS beneficiaries. Security staff at the hall gates can’t count the auto-rickshaws that drop patients at the OPD entrance.

This is the condition of the main hall, while there are separate OPDs (out-patient departments) for orthopedics and dental problems. There are hundreds more that visit these OPDs also.

There is a Super-Speciality OPD also. The patients climb up or travel by packed lifts to reach doctors on the five floors of the main OPD. On each of these floors, the patients wait again in long queues to see the doctors.

Open spaces and corridors wear the look of railway platforms of distant years. Once the patients are free from doctors, they can collect free medicines also. But they must come in queues for that.

These queues are formed only by those who enter the medicine hall by waiting in a common long queue. The security men who control this queue can beat the best crowd controllers in their job.

These men keep the queue in several formations up and down, then usher them into the medicine hall. While the dental OPD has at least a hall for the patients to wait, the orthopedic OPD has narrow corridors, where you need patience and a sound heart to wait for your turn. Tempers run high every now and then.

This is common in all OPDs. None can break a queue and jump ahead. An NGO has a counter to take care of sick persons without anyone to look after them.

A large number of patients bring their own food. Still, a massive food “industry” is operating all around and in the hospital. There is absolutely no care for hygiene. People line up at the food donors’ mini-trucks on the main roads, just as the noon hour comes.

There is no count of open-air kitchens on filthy pavements, selling fried poori, bhaturas, and pakodas. The common man eats on paper plates, without washing his hands. The hospital is in a high pollution zone, surrounded by roads where traffic never stops.

The Monday OPD visitors said the scenes are repeated at least on Tuesdays and Wednesdays also.