Pathetic – the one word that can define the state of affairs. There have been raging debates on the issue; there would be volume-loads of literature being written in the future, but what would be the point to begin that would bring the change, had the answer in the show itself. The answer has been all around, much debated and discussed but not able to find takers at the top-most policy-making level.
Aamir was reacting on every small fact, known to millions and already in the public domain, in a way like it was a bombshell. And this sort of attitude (unawareness) is exactly the problem.
Now don’t we all know how the many doctors are cahoots with the marketing machinery and the exacerbated human greed?
Most of the doctors in the government hospitals complete writing the prescription slip even before the patient finishes his account of the problem. Private doctors are not within reach of the majority. Those, from this lot of majority, who approach such doctors, either take loan or kill their savings.
It is next to difficult to convince most of the doctors to write medicines easily available at most of the chemist shops.
It is almost impossible to ask a doctor to let you follow the diagnostic centre that is convenient to you.
Doctors sustain lives. They are supposed to be next to the god. They why this?
Go and experience it. (I bet many of you would already have something to share.)
Recently, I had ligament tear. After trying self-healing, I approached a nearby hospital run by a charity governed by Delhi’s health minister, Ashok Walia. The doctor recommended X-ray and asked me to come with the report. The X-ray guy was probably in some other world as he clicked for wrong part of my foot. I had to get it redone. After it, when I approached the doctor, he had serious expression on his face and some heavy words ready for my problem. He explained it at length like I was having some serious fracture. He wrote three days of medicine and advised to consult again. When I tried to purchase the medicine from the shop I am regular with, I couldn’t find it there, not even at any other shop in the area. Some of the shopkeepers advised me to approach the pharmacy of the hospital. And lo! I got it.
But see what I got it. These were generic salts marketed by some unknown Delhi based company but with almost equal price tag as the branded medicines. They didn’t work on my pain and I left taking them after a day. Anyway, my problem was gone three days after visiting the doctor when I had an enjoyable 4 kilometers walk back to my home.
Now if this is the state of affairs of a charitable hospital associated with a name that is Delhi’s health minister, we can easily imagine what is happening all across.
Magnifying the problem, writing medicines not really needed, and writing highly-priced ineffective versions of medicines – indeed a crime.
I can say I have come across multiple such examples even with the famed doctors indulged in such malpractices. (And I am sure, there would be many like me.)
Another bad patch is the excessive charges being levied on. You can easily find the sky-high differences in the cost of diagnostic tests of different labs. Last year, my sister had a mild fever but the doctor at the Max hospital wrote medical tests for almost everything with bills running into Rs. 20,000 plus figures. My sister recovered after three days and had no need to follow the medicine regime advised for 15 days. Doctors get huge commission on the medical tests recommended, even at the big hospitals like Max and Fortis it seems.
And the commission system really kills. Your hard-earned money goes into nothing.
Extending the tyranny is the unaccountable costs incurred on hospitalization. When I had met the doctor for knee-cap replacement surgery of the 76-year old Mrs. Mehta, I was given a cost-estimate of Rs. 4 Lakh. The total funding generated was around Rs. 5.5 Lakh. And though it was an acclaimed hospital run as a registered charitable institution, the final bill amount crossed the Rs. 5.5 Lakh limit. Okay there might be genuine additions, but what I observed about the attitude of the support staff; it was not different as the money-soaking practices exercised by the corporate hospitals and other notorious one/two doctor nursing homes.
The focus was on maximizing the bill amount irrespective of the need.
There are good and bad people in every profession, but certain areas, owing to their emergency nature and poor access to the public in India, creates an easy ground for manipulation, and health services in India is one such area.
What aggravates the misery in India?
Almost half of the population illiterate (with even greater share of medically illiterate lot), over 65 per cent of the population below poverty line, an ever-increasing urban slum population, lower number of even the allied health professionals working in the rural areas and the restricted availability of qualified medical professionals to the large sections of the population even in the urban centers are the telling signs of the malaise. I don’t need to write the statistical base for all this. Most of us are aware of these.
Unawareness on health care rights and poor government spending on healthcare amenities by the government at the cost of promoting private enterprises coupled with the problems mentioned above create and sustain the monster.
I have been working with doctors and activists. I have come across few good doctors. They are really serious about bringing the change. But I can say I have come across more bad doctors. The condition is frightening in rural areas.