1 in 3 Students Surveyed Report Poor Experiences with Ashoka Infirmary
By Sankalp Dasmohapatra, UG '24
With the Spring Semester now at a close, it was clear that in the short time students were allowed back on campus, many used the infirmary facilities and their experience with the same was less than stellar. With widespread complaints around the Isolation and Quarantine Centre (IQC) facilities and murmurings of mistreatment by the medical staff, it became clear that a significant number of people left the infirmary with more complaints than they entered. At present Ashoka hires staff for the infirmary from the external contractor ‘Blue Circle Medi Services’.
To better understand exactly the issues faced by students, the Edict rolled out a survey to the student body asking about their experiences with both the infirmary and IQC. The survey received 51 responses.
37.3% of respondents rated their experience at the infirmary as a 4 out of 5. However, 30% of the respondents rated their experience at the infirmary as either a 1 or 2 out of 5, with a similar percentage rating the infirmary staff as either a 1 or 2 out of 5 as well. Unsurprisingly then, a majority of the written complaints in the survey cited issues of improper diagnoses and difficulties with staff.
Other prominent issues highlighted by the students included improper prescriptions (which makes up 35% of the issues faced), unprofessional behaviour with students during the course of treatment, and a general lack of empathy and understanding.
The Edict also reached out to students to conduct anonymous interviews discussing their experiences. In one reported instance, when taken to the infirmary with a potential ligament tear, a student faced major difficulties with staff when detailing future treatment and was given a course of treatment that did not help alleviate their pain or heal the injury. Moreover, upon later lodging a complaint against the doctor for mistreatment, the student’s confidentiality was violated by the administration, which informed the infirmary about the student’s name and batch. “As someone that has chronic asthma that is regularly aggravated on campus I need to be in the infirmary on a regular basis. This whole experience has made me feel incredibly unsafe and I plan on making do with my inhaler,” says the aggrieved student.
Another interviewed student says, “When I went to the infirmary with food poisoning they gave me an injection with no context whatsoever. I was very weak and didn’t have it in me to do anything about them.” The student further mentions, “The infirmary seemed understaffed, they were arguing about where the injection was and then the person that administered it didn’t have any identification as a staff member.”
A few structural issues repeatedly came up with the infirmary.
1. Understaffed infirmary and unqualified staff:
The infirmary, which has only a handful of nurses and two staff doctors, is woefully understaffed to address the needs of the large number of students on campus. Consequently, the staff is easily overwhelmed during times wherein many students are in need of the infirmary–as was seen during the food poisoning outbreak and general COVID isolation procedures this semester on campus wherein students reported facing an “impatient and inexperienced staff”. Of the 28 respondents that faced issues with the infirmary, 75% of them say that it occurred due to difficulties with staff.
Moreover with the absence of round-the-clock doctors, students that approach the infirmary after staff working hours receive treatment by medical interns. As one form respondent puts it, “A university like Ashoka needs proper nurses and doctors to be available 24/7, as interns do not have the same credibility nor the same expertise.” Students also noted the lack of a gynaecologist and physiotherapist as a major issue, especially for a university with such a large residential population.
2. Lack of appropriate medical facilities:
Medical facilities on campus are often quite inadequate, especially for catering to widespread outbreaks of diseases. This was highlighted when the Sports Block was used as an isolation centre. In this instance, the lack of appropriate ventilation in the complex caused distress during fumigation, over which students were compelled to send an urgent plea to the Dean of Student Affairs.
Moreover when students are sent to an external hospital via the ambulances another student is not allowed to accompany them on the ambulance. As one respondent states in the form, “they didn't allow a friend with me in the ambulance, which is something I really really needed at that point. By the time I got to the hospital, it was almost nine. At that point, my nineteen year old friends with no medical training were a hundred times more helpful than the entire medical unit of a university that claims to have world-class facilities and a 24/7 medical system.”
In such cases, the administration must allow a trusted student to accompany the patient. Further, the hospitals that students are taken to generally exhibit varying levels of response, and therefore the staff’s decisions to choose which hospitals students are taken to must be more transparent.
3. Lack of appropriate channels through which to express grievances
With the present Student Government unable to take up mobilisation surrounding these issues, there is a lack of pressure placed on the administration to make necessary changes surrounding the quality of the infirmary. Moreover, students shouldn’t have to gather en masse when demanding basic improvements in one of the most fundamental services on campus. There should be a clear and easily identifiable channel of communication through which students can notify the administration of grievances and suggestions relating to the infirmary. Moreover, it is paramount that their confidentiality is maintained within this entire process to ensure that the infirmary continues to remain a safe and accessible place for all students, especially those that need to visit it on a regular basis.
With ever-increasing batch sizes and the imminent arrival of UG25 in the coming Monsoon semester, it is clear that the Ashokan administration must make changes to the infirmary. It must ensure that the facilities most fundamental to campus well-being are regularly updated with those changes needed by the student body.