The Hotchpotch Healthcare!
EATEN BY GREED AND APATHY, OUR HEALTHCARE ROTS. WHAT`S LEFT IS A POOR IMITATION THAT HAS LONG FORGOTTEN THE ART TO HEAL, WRITES BASIM AMIN BAZAZ
The waiting room is full of patients, every single one waiting his turn. The air stinks. Everyone is impatient. A forehead is perspiring here, a paper fan waving there. Some have been waiting since morning, others since weeks. A group of people is sitting. Another is standing. Yet some others are doing ups-and-downs. None however even remotely aware of the sword of deceit about to cut them!
The clever-guy makes his entry into the room and heads straight for the compounder. His every step deliberate, his every move calculated. “I have a prior appointment with the doctor,” he says. “The name is Ghulam Muhammad.” Prior! Ghulam-Muhammad! A fatal combination of keywords. The compounder is struck by an unseen hand. He abruptly stops whatever he is doing and rises. He smiles a wicked smile. “I have been waiting for you,” he says.” Pay the beep amount and go in next.” Nobody ever comes to know what the beep amount is. It is bloated. It is exceeded by the sum the clever guy pays as bribe. A bribe to let him in first!
The door opens and the clever-guy goes in. The unsuspecting cattle continue to wait, hoodwinked, deceived. There is no ‘prior’ appointment and certainly there is no ‘Ghulam Muhammad’. Only a flawless execution of code word based communication and a nefarious plot of bribery. And does irony have a limit? For as wicked an act as this, the name they chose is so noble – Ghulam Muhammad!
The incident takes place every now and then at a prominent clinic in Kashmir and among other things serves as a precursor to the quality of treatment that we as Kashmiris can expect. Just like other sectors, healthcare in Kashmir has suffered at the hands of corruption, inefficiency and greed. No surprises there. The criticality of the sector, however, and the way people depend on it, disallows one to turn a blind eye towards its glaring inadequacies. For the past few years, I have tried to keep a close tab on the way an average Kashmiri gets treated. What I have been led to believe is not heartening at all. He suffers at each and every step. Doctors, diagnostic centers, hospitals; everybody, all the time, out to rip off his skin.
There is one more clinic. A different one, but no different when it comes to paying bribes. You visit the doctor directly and you wait for weeks. You visit the medical shop opposite the clinic instead and guess what? You get your appointment the next day. Also you end up lightening your pocket by a fair bit. The medical shop attendant says it is just business. If you are ready to spend more you get the benefits. But he clearly forgets that you get benefitted at the cost of others which can never be right. The only silver lining in the whole thing – the doctor perhaps not involved.
Unfortunately dishonesty and greed are not confined to the clinics of private doctors only. Their venom spreads to diagnostic centers as well. The last time I visited a diagnostic center my experiences hit a new low. I had to get a bunch of tests done. The kind of recklessness I was met with left me heartless. Not that it was just another diagnostic center around the corner. No. It was quite a reputed one; being in the business for more than forty years. Yet the way they handled their business seemed to be so raw. I had to have some seven tests done and was asked to pay an arbitrary amount of eight hundred bucks. I pulled my wallet out and scrambled for the money. Just before I was to hand it over, a strange intuition made me stop short. I asked the person on the counter to break up the cost for me. Bingo! I could hear something inside him snap. He began scribbling on the paper, quickly, his head down, trying to match random amounts against illegible test names, hoping the amounts added up to eight hundred. Unfortunately, they did not. He could cook them up only to levels of seven hundred fifty. He had asked me for more money than the tests had cost me! Perhaps expecting that I would not ask for a break up. Now that I had, I found him all blushing. He dropped the pen and looked up, trying his best to avoid my gaze. “Looks like there has been a mistake”, he managed to say. “Here, I give you a discount of fifty bucks. You can pay me only seven hundred for all the tests.”
I did that. I paid him seven hundred only and left the center. On my way home, however, I realized what a master stroke he had played. He cheated. He got caught. And yet perhaps, he ended up charging me more than what was worthy. Although I paid him seven hundred only, I can never be sure that I did not pay him more. Courtesy – missing rate list. Just goes to show how adept in the art of deception they can be. The know ways to make money even during the process of clearing their name!
To make things even worse, the story of our misfortune does not stop here. Our elite hospitals, both government run and private owned, reveal a whole lot of lacunae. Some are short of equipment. The ones that have, suffer the shortage of expertise to run them. Interestingly the ones that are bestowed with both are marred by non seriousness and loss of empathy towards patients.
A close relative of mine succumbed to pneumonia at the SMHS hospital lately. For one month of his stay at the hospital he was administered high grade antibiotics which should have sufficiently rid him of his infection. They did not. It dawned too late on the doctors that he could have developed resistance to them. A culture test was done. It revealed that he indeed was resistant to those particular antibiotics. But then it was too late! Logic says the culture test should have been done before the antibiotics were given. So does medical science. But in this classic case of gross negligence it was done only after they did not work!
“I will never come back to Kashmir,” I remember a close friend of mine settled abroad saying. “I wish I could. I crave to. But the kind of healthcare I am promised there just won`t let me. They have let me down before and they will let me down again, I am sure.” And just like that he and his children and their children were ripped off the privilege of living life at their homeland.
There was a day when I totally disagreed with him. “You ought to make sacrifices in life. To lay your hands on one thing you perhaps need to let go of some others,” I had told him then. But a few years into the day, after having tasted the bitter concoction of our healthcare, corruption and greed myself, I now realize that he might have been right. Decent healthcare is certainly one of the basic provisions needed for a prosperous society. It sits right at the top. Development of roads and digging of drains may look great. But it’s the stuff at your core that counts and not just the exterior. And your healthcare defines your core. Surely without a good healthcare in place, no society can be a society enough.
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Lastupdate on : Sun, 31 Jul 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 31 Jul 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 1 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
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