Timely and quality medical attention is still a distant dream to India’s unwashed millions. As government hospitals are neglected, the poor have nowhere to go.
The private practitioners practice in a number of places the same day, and fleece the patients. They do not issue authentic receipts for the money they collect from patients, and they are the worst tax-evaders.
Sometime ago I admitted an elderly person, in good health, who was one of the first English journalists from India to report from the U.S. more than fifty years ago. When I got a late-night call from his wife I rushed to his flat. As he was coming out of the toilet he fell backward and fractured his hip. I tried to shift him to bed from the floor where he was writhing in pain. As he was not able to move, I summoned an Ambulance from a private hospital in Chennai. After taking him to the hospital I was witness to the farce going on there. After shifting him to a private room, I left the hospital early morning and went there again when the doctor was expected to visit. Meanwhile, I spoke to the doctor, and advised him to be careful and considerate because of the person’s age and poor economic condition.
When I reached the hospital early morning, an Ambulance was ready to take the patient to another hospital. This was news to me. The doctor was not present. To my enquiry I got a vague reply from an attendant in the Ambulance that the surgical instruments required were not working and the operation will be done in another hospital. I accompanied the couple in the Ambulance.
After waiting for an hour or so, which is by 10 am, the doctor appeared, introduced me to the anesthetist, and said the work was only fixing a hip-belt and will not take more than 20 minutes.
We (the patient’s wife and I) waited for three hours, but there was no news from the operation theatre. As we were convinced that the person cannot be brought back the same day, I approached the staff for getting a room. My request was flatly refused. I then took the liberty of meeting the medical director of the hospital.
When I managed to draw his attention to our problem, that the lady’s husband is in the operation theatre, he cannot be taken back home, and she needs a self-contained room with telephone connection, he was callous in his response: “It is the responsibility of the doctor who has admitted the person to arrange his accommodation, and the hospital has given only the operation theatre”.
I left the room with the lady and continued our wait in front of the operation theatre. In about half an hour there was a sudden development. About three medical staff met me and said whatever facilities we wanted in the hospital will be made available.
After that under my supervision a make-shift€ room was made, with a phone connection. I sensed something ominous from this sudden turn of events.
As the patient was not brought out from the operation theatre even after long hours, and the lady was restless, I tried to meet the doctor; but I was prevented. I protested and said either you call the doctor out or I will enter the theatre. In five minutes the doctor came out, said the operation was a success, the operation was done under local anesthesia, and in 15 minutes time the patient will be brought to the post-operation room.
Tired of two days sleeplessness and continuous standing in the hospital, believing the doctor’s version, I left the hospital. As soon as I reached home I had a call from the lady, crying aloud on phone that “he does not look like my husband, he is in the ICU”. I rushed to the hospital and straight went into the ICU where I found the person on life-support. When I asked the duty doctor about the details, his answer was since local anesthesia did not work the anesthetist used general anesthesia. The other doctor apparently told me a lie. He did not show the responsibility of taking the person to the ICU. Nor did he show the minimum courtesy of meeting the person’s wife even once.
Afffter waiting for one day, when his condition was not improving, considering the daily expenditure of a few thousand rupees besides the operation charges of about Rs. 40,000 or so, the lady insisted that her husband should be discharged immediately. The hospital refused and blackmailed her that if he is taken out no ambulance will be arranged, and no doctor or medical attendant will accompany him. The doctor was nowhere in the vicinity to tell us what is going on.The next day I got the doctor on phone, apprised him of the patient’s poor economic condition, and said that his wife cannot take care of him. Even after this the doctor did not meet the patient. Instead, he instructed his junior to stop all active medicines without removing the life-support. In less than four hours the person died. Even after his death the hospital refused to relieve him and arrange an ambulance until all the dues were settled.