The Silent Murders and Medical Suffocation
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Your grandfather is admitted and serious. Please come at once” my uncle said on the telephone.
I was in the first MBBS. This maternal grandfather was my closest relative after my father. An expert in many languages and philosophies, he was a constant source of love, wisdom and inspiration from my toddler days.
I submitted a leave application and travelled immediately to attend him. Grandpa was admitted in the general ward at the civil hospital Beed in Maharashtra. As the wards were full, he was kept with two other patients in a sort of a broad corridor, and IV antibiotics with saline were being given. He was delirious, but he managed to smile when he saw me. As civil hospitals do not have many medicines, my uncle arranged them from an outside pharmacy.
There was an elderly retired police inspector, Mr. Gaikwad, on the bed next to my Grandpa’s. He had uncontrolled sugar levels, and was slipping in and out of consciousness. His elderly wife was attending him, she was herself a patient of severe arthritis, and could not even get up or walk without excruciating pain. There were no chairs / stools or even mattresses for relatives attending the patients, so we slept on the floor besides our respective patients, upon our own bedsheets. I naturally attended the elderly couple too, I had enough time to attend humans as that was the pre cellphone era. Mrs. Gaikwad told me how her husband had spent his life without ever being corrupt, and said while she was proud that he was so clean, that also meant hardships like the one she faced. “Those who took bribes can afford to go to the private doctors in big cities and keep attendants. Our virtues translated in more hardships, the vocal rewards of words do not ease physical pain, nor pay any bills” she said with tears. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
One night at about 3 AM, while I was deep asleep, I heard a scream and got up startled. Mr. Gaikwad was having a convulsion, and his wife shouted in panic. I ran to call the nurse, but there was only one for the entire ward and she was in the washroom. By the time she came out, the convulsion had stopped. She stopped the insulin drip and called the doctor on duty, who was asleep in the casualty. He came and administered some medicines and went away, exhausted. He was on duty for over three days in a row now, tired and irritable, yet had no option but to go on. I dozed off again. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
In a few minutes, I realized Mrs. Gaikwad was waking me up again, shaking violently, because the IV needle of her husband had come out and he was bleeding. In panic I stood up. There was some water on the floor, and before I realized, I fell face down upon the bare floor. Such was the impact that my upper front tooth broke, and tore through my upper lip. It was bleeding profusely. The nurse had come and inserted another IV line to the patient by then, and the elderly lady felt quite guilty for my injury.
The nurse asked me to go to the casualty. The wardboy there refused at first to wake up the doctor on duty, saying he hadn’t slept for past two nights. However, as the bleeding continued, he took pity and woke up the doctor. Already angry, the casualty doc cleaned and sutured my lip with the available suture material, the correct one was not there. He asked me to get the painkillers and antibiotics from the pharmacy, and to fill up the necessary papers and pay the fees at the window.
With a swollen lip and an aching head, I returned to the ward and slept again. The next day, Grandpa was already feeling better, he could get a bed in a semi-private room, and discharged in two days after that.
Mr. Gaikwad, the elderly retired inspector passed away after two days, obviously a case of far less medical attention and facility. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I carry the scars till date.
Not much has changed in the civil / government run hospitals, even today. Far lesser beds and amenities, a constant lack of medicines and instruments, anarchic uncleanliness, underpaid and understaffed faculty, “sarkari” type procedural delays: overall a third-rate or worse experience in healthcare, with bribes and corruption at almost every level.
What is being projected is opposite though. The whole blame is being planted upon the medical professionals, and all the so-called reforms being made are just tightening of working conditions of the allopathic doctors. We do need reforms in medical malpractice and corruptions, and they are of course welcome, but many more thousand patients die due to apathy and lack of medicines and facilities at the government run hospitals than those who die due to medical malpractice. The number of administrators and government employees who do not attend government hospitals is a proof of the massive healthcare deficit we have everywhere in India. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Ambulances, thousands of more basic and specialty hospitals, more doctors, nurses, support staff in govt. run hospitals, better facilities and medicines are basic social requirements before any other development, advertisements or beautification is planned. However, the whole system appears to be concentrating upon the earning, eligibility and qualifications of existing allopaths.
MCI and IMA must also look into “Compulsory Basic Healthcare Facility and Patient Rights and Care” at all Civil / Govt. hospitals, specifying what the govt. must mandatorily implement in all its set-ups, what are the responsibilities of the administration. The overall (incorrect) notion that “All the problems in Indian Healthcare are because of the greed of Allopathic Doctors” is on the rise because of the “Govt. pleasing policies, comments and attitudes” by some. This will be extremely harmful in the long run. Progress can only be made in healthcare once the medical “Yes-Men” and “Yes-Women” are gone, once the voices that can boldly speak the truth are heard well.
Till then, the private practitioners must stay united in raising their voice against such “unilateral reforms” and defamation, or prepare to be forever suffocated by the system.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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