Here's a new twist to multi-tasking! A security guard at a Delhi government-run hospital doubles up as a paramedic - jabbing patients with a syringe to collect blood.
At the Delhi-government-run Satyawati Raja Harish Chandra Hospital in west Delhi's Narela area, Puneet Gaur, 26, guards the main gate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. In between, he is summoned to help out with collecting blood.
Gaur expertly ties a rubber band around the arm of the patient, searches for a vein, daubs the spot with a spirit-soaked piece of cotton, and lets the syringe needle in to draw out blood. He then squirts the collected blood into small labelled glass vials for testing - just like an expert.
Enquiries revealed that Gaur does not have the required lab technician's diploma to perform the job, though he claims to have a B.Sc degree.
Earlier this year, untrained employees of a government hospital were caught on camera carrying out post-mortem in a Meerut district hospital in Uttar Pradesh. Prior to this, sweepers were found stitching up wounds in a hospital in Bulandshahr, also in Uttar Pradesh.
In the case of Gaur, he appears to have become an expert at drawing blood.
Queried about using the services of a guard to draw and collect blood, hospital medical superintendent Chandrakant told IANS: "The hospital is facing a huge staff crunch, and we are left with no alternative but to take his help for blood collection."
The 200-bed hospital has also been facing a shortage of doctors for a very long time, Chandrakant said.
Gaur is employed with a private security firm that outsources its guards to the hospital. He has been working at the facility for the past three years and began to help out with collecting blood one and a half years ago. Gaur does not charge for the extra work, according to hospital staff.
"Gaur is collecting the blood of patients which is the work of a specially qualified degree or diploma holder," a hospital staff member told IANS on condition of anonymity.
"Puneet is a graduate. And what's wrong in taking his help," Chandrakant countered when asked about Gaur's lack of qualifications for the job, adding: "If we do not take his help, then there will be long queues at the hospital."
Gaur refused to speak to an IANS correspondent on the issue, only stating "MS sahab hi batayenge (only the medical superintendent can comment)."
"We have written to the Delhi government several times about severe staff crunch in the hospital but to no avail," another staff member told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Gaur draws a Rs.4,000 salary of a security guard.
The post of lab technician at the hospital has been lying vacant for two years, a staff member said.
"This is very unfortunate if it is happening in a hospital. The government should do something in order to fill up the vacant posts in the hospitals," Harish Gupta, president of the Delhi Medical Association, told IANS.
"The shortage of staff in Delhi government hospitals is not new. Several big hospitals in the capital are also suffering from a huge staff crunch, in the lower as well as senior levels," he added.
When contacted V.K. Aggarwal, Additional Director (Medical) Monitoring, Coordination and Supervision of Dispensaries of the Delhi government, said the shortage of lab technicians and lab assistants keeps on happening from time to time. "The matter is in our notice. We are looking into it," Aggarwal told IANS.
The hospital gets 20,000-25,000 patients a year. According to the figure compiled by the Delhi government, last year, the hospital got 21,776 patients.
(Alok Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)