New shelter still to open, patients spend nights in open

AIIMS says construction of shelter complete, DUSIB maintains not fit to stay

It was the coldest new year in three years — the mercury plummeted to a low of four degree Celsius — and that made matters worse for many patients who had to spend the night in the open, on the footpath outside AIIMS. Because a permanent night shelter opposite the AIIMS campus, adjoining Safdarjung hospital, is still getting "final touches".

A temporary night shelter managed by the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), started last year on the campus, is stretched to maximum. Extra patients have to be turned away. On new year's eve, 413 patients and relatives had packed the existing hall.

AIIMS authorities say the new night shelter, which is expected to be larger with a capacity to accommodate nearly 200 more people than the existing shelter, has been completed. But when Newsline visited the centre on Tuesday, two doors were still being made. Windows on either side only have blue blinds as cover from the chilly wind.

AIIMS superintending engineer B S Anand said: "From our side, the construction has been completed. We informed the DUSIB in November. They wanted us to cover the window space, so we have put some blinds. We will send DUSIB a reminder tomorrow to shift to the new centre soon."

But DUSIB officials said the new shelter is not fit for "habitation". "Over the last six months, we have been writing to AIIMS to make the shelter fit for patients to stay. There was a single exit door, so we told them to make more exit routes. These have to be there for any emergency situation. The window space was completely open. How could patients stay there in the winter?" a DUSIB official said.

At the existing shelter, patients have to run to "book" space in the afternoon itself. Mahipal, who has come from Haridwar with his wife who is being treated for bone cancer, said, "I have been in Delhi for the last seven months. This shelter is a boon. Now that winter is here, I have to run and occupy my place around 5 pm because it fills up fast."

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