Category Archives: coronavirus

The Last Bullet For Indian Private Healthcare


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Many doctors, nurses and other staff, police officers are dying due to corona exposure. Recently the quarantine period of doctors was cancelled. To add to this, very ridiculously, doctors’ salaries were reduced, and covid funds were deducted from even frontline warriors’ salary. This is like taking money from a soldier’s paycheck to fund the army!!

When I recently heard some people shouting about excess bills in hospitals, doctors not working etc., I felt like shouting back too, but one cannot argue with a sold TV screen.

For decades India has had
Excess urban crowding,
Very poor hygiene.
Very high poverty and illiteracy.
Lack of town-planning for slums.
Severe lack of state/ national healthcare infrastructure.
Tiniest budget for healthcare.
Perpetually under-functioning government hospitals. Every season hundreds die due to epidemics.

Where were you till before the pandemic? Who is responsible for all of the above? Do you want to discuss these factors which are responsible for the pandemic chaos today? Or now you just blame it all upon Doctors and Private hospitals?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Only private doctors with small nursing homes and dispensaries, clinics were shouldering all healthcare needs that government hospitals could not provide. They had low profits and catered to middle and lower class. These were destroyed in last few years because of too many stringent regulations and costly licensing. Many closed down. Legal troubles by relatives, politicos supporting them and vandalising hospitals forced many private doctors to stop admitting patients. Protection to doctors was denied by almost all governments till before this pandemic.

Indian poverty is never ending, and charity cannot run anything perpetually unless there’s a strong fund generating mechanism supporting it. If someone expects that doctors charging 2 rupees fees are the ideal healthcare for all our medical needs, they should happily go to such a doctor. We highly respect them too, but it is their choice and there are obvious limitations to that. To develop advanced healthcare in India, higher profits were necessary for higher investment. Corporates, some businessmen and the likes of Mr. Ambani pitched in. Advanced healthcare with heart and liver transplants, complicated brain surgeries, cancer treatments came to India because of these investors. They accepted all the conditions of governments to accommodate over twenty percent poor, nonpaying patients via various schemes. The payments for running these schemes were delayed by various govts for years, and the hospitals were arm-twisted in still continuing to treat everyone. The only source of profits was private and some insurance patients who were paying a higher fees for facilities: from air-conditioning, food to choice of specialists. Higher quality of staff, especially nursing and technicians who can operate high end machinery and robotics requires very high salaries. Maintenance costs are heavy. A specialist cannot do much without such a very good team. Each of these requires good if not great salaries, as they are continuously invited by developed countries who pay far higher.

But then every patient wants the highest facilities, best staff and specialist team, with no payment or basic payment. There’s no concept of billing beyond actual price of medicines and room charges. Service and maintenance is considered a ‘free right’. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Even in this modern era of equality, a higher class Indian officer like a minister gets a higher room, better food and other facilities, even higher medical bill sanctions, whereas the labourer from his department gets minimum basic facilities and bill eligibility only for general ward. Law allows higher healthcare’s standards and payments for higher officials. Why do they even have classes in railways and airplanes? If a “Gareeb bechara” migrant wants to fly home, should we offer him road transport or compassionate air travel? Why don’t we do for all the poor something that you all expect doctors and hospitals to do?

We don’t mind if basic and emergency healthcare is uniformly cheap or free for everyone. But when you force a high-end medical commodity (skill-time-investment-staff) to be sold at a loss or extremely marginal profit, you kill the system.

Doctors do not differentiate when making a diagnosis or treating anyone from any financial/ power background. But the private hospitals must be allowed to cater to different classes, earning their profits. That is their only stimulus to grow forward, engage best personnel and bring advanced healthcare to India. Different governments have failed at maintaining high standards of healthcare in their respective set-ups (with some proud exceptions- but because that’s where our powerful go). Some hospitals indeed take more bills for better class of services, including staff, but none of them forces a patient to come to them. Even these hospitals never deny free emergency treatment to anyone.

“But isn’t healthcare a charity? Haven’t you taken oaths to serve?” our loudmouth hypocrites ask.

Yes we have taken an oath to serve everyone rich and poor equally, but no, we have not taken any oath to neglect our own health and well being. Yes we have taken an oath to serve, but we have not taken any oath to live in perpetual poverty and financial stress. Yes we are under an oath to do our best for every patient, but we will not be bending backwards to fulfil their unreasonable demands. Yes we want to save every life, even if it is dangerous , but we will not unnecessarily endanger our own life because someone forces us. We haven’t taken an oath to abandon our families. The Hippocratic oath does not ask any doctor to stay hungry, work without sleep, and do the unscientific because various governments cannot pay for adequate number of doctors. Still we are doing all this already. Let us be clear: we proudly and intellectually serve our country, but we refuse to be considered slaves of either the system or the society. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Capping bills in private hospitals will be the last bullet for all advances in healthcare development in India. Be prepared to go back to the chaos of ancient times in that case. Quality will suffer most: right from specialists to nurses to medicines. You can of course force one generation of doctors to work like this, under low cost and excess work. People aren’t fools to send their children to such hells of social slavery. Yes you read that right. There’s a difference between service and slavery. Do not attempt to turn medical service providers into slaves. It will backfire very sourly.

Instead of this, the government can invest in existing private healthcare players to create low cost infrastructure alongside their private hospitals, or privatising its own healthcare institutions with increased capacity. Our governments do have friends in very high places who can invest.

We love India. We are not against any particular government, and this post is not against any leader or party. But we do feel very strongly that healthcare decisions must be made involving everyone concerned, that this people-pleasing for short term will turn out to be a huge disaster in long run, and it will be irreversible. If any government thinks that cancelling hospital permits and doctors’ licences in a country with severe shortage of medical services is the right way forward, God help it.

If private and corporate hospitals start shutting down now, it will be permanent. India will then have to mostly rely upon prayers alone for healthcare. And of course those who think they know medical science more than doctors. India has no dearth of such “fatally self-medicating” ignoramuses.

Jai Hind

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Disoriented


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doc, he appears confused. He has delusions. He was very methodical and logical earlier. He had excellent deduction and was considered a genius among his colleagues. Yet now he himself does not understand that he is making gross mistakes in making simple decisions. He appears completely disoriented…” the lady gave me an update in a deeply concerned voice. The devastating fear of mental, intellectual decline of a beloved is not grasped by all. For want of simplicity, we term it dementia. However, the meaning of this term is far broader and deeper than what most people can grasp, and the mental agony that the spouse goes through is beyond many a people’s emotional basket too. Infections and low sodium levels can often worsen the mental-cognitive personality of the elderly. I advised her a few tests to be done urgently and returned to my quarantine chores.

Her words kept on echoing for some time in my mind. This pandemic has challenged what the humanity perceived as truth till date. Disoriented, demented, illogical, delusional: isn’t that what the whole humanity has become today? Hasn’t this virus uncovered our intellectual, emotional limitations and selfish vulnerabilities? Have we not become exactly what the best human souls taught us never to become: money minded selfish humanoids hiding behind facades of clever and intelligent, politically correct wordplays, fatally attracted to glamour and clamour, emotionally cut off from the world, concentrating upon our families, cults, religions and regions? And of course, intermittently well-crafting the social service façade by donations, our signature face on every penny.

Financial success and numbers have become the new, hidden definition of life. Some wisely hide the word ‘Financial’ in the prior sentence. We won’t be able to name any financially unsuccessful / poor geniuses from the fields of medicine, science, art and even sports. I do not hate capitalism, in fact I believe that wealth creators are the ones who fuel the world. But among these are the compassionate and human who would rather be a million short of their billion rather than destroying a competitor and his/ her business. Squeezing-twisting every arm in the giant machinery that governs laws to finish everyone else and engulf everything with a gluttony that is hailed as business acumen is a real tragedy unfolding right now. We very gladly become the proud cogwheels of such ‘man-eating’ giant machineries that bleed competitors to a certain death.

While never being able to make peace with our neighbours we speak of world peace. We cannot bring ourselves to acknowledge the good in our competitors and enemies, we cannot deal with those with a different religion or country, come what may! While excepting ourselves from laws and rules we blame and blast those others who break laws. While secretly cultivating the filthy “money is all that matters” gene in our next generation, we encourage blindness towards the moral, ethical bypasses required to earn humungous money. The amount of real happiness, truth and honesty that needs to be sacrificed to be extremely rich is the worst inheritance our next generations will have to suffer from. Clever Wordplays is the sociopolitical success mantra of today!

I had never thought that I will witness anything more emotionally traumatic after seeing the hundreds of dead bodies and bleeding, broken-bone victims during the Killari earthquake. Today’s migrant crisis appears to cause deeper wounds than that upon our soul. This is a very tragic question, but what causes more hurt: witnessing dead bodies or extreme suffering of the living? Millions of migrants facing the worst wrath of fate, walking under a scorching sun towards a faraway home with their children, some dying, some delivering on the roads, strong men and women labourers breaking down and wailing – will be a shameful and guilty memory which I will carry for the rest of my life. We have excess caps and shoes; they are walking in rude heat bare headed and barefoot for hundreds of miles. We are discovering new cooking skills, they are discovering new depths of hunger. We are complaining about broken air conditioners, they are gasping for a glimpse of their beloveds in their zuggi-zopdi. We are too comfortable and grateful knowing that we are not them.

That India is overpopulated appears to be our strength on social media. We can show how many million fans, hits and likes there are, but we cannot speak a word about a tragedy which happens right in our backyard. We are scared of the worst: socio-political ostracisation, defamation, destruction of a hard-earned reputation and closure of financial support for survival. An intellectual is more scared of losing freedom of creativity, giving his best to the world and so mostly decides to be a silent spectator around strongmen with their invisible socio-political weaponry. Society as a whole has never protected or rewarded its intellectuals, especially in backward countries.

This pandemic will go. Few will have changed their perceptions of the world. Few understand that anything requiring a crowd must please a crowd’s intelligence quotient. Because crowds gather for hate easier than for love. Look at what content gets the best response: hate mongering, roasts, nudity, vulgar language and sloganeering. None of these is a proud achievement of humanity, yet these are the top hits. Pleasing a crowd can entertain, can earn one money, fame and votes too, but cannot ever bring this world health, happiness or peace. Entertainment, although critically essential for a stress-free mind, although soul-awakening, will never be among the first essentials of reducing hunger, pain, disease and suffering. There indeed was a time when entertainment was creative, with art, literature, acting, music and sports, fulfilling for the soul, but now only the superficial, jaded antics and the gaudy glitter with numbers remains the identity of most entertainment forms.

We indeed are disoriented. Yes, I too am guilty of some such disorientation. I have consciously decided to change. I do not have all answers right now, but I better appreciate the bigger picture now. My perceptions of what matters most have further changed. My faith in human nature has been deeply wounded, but my hope has always won, and I will help it heal even now. The current crises just told me what human race truly needs. My wish to make everyone understand has decided to take a back seat. My wish to do what I can is in the driving seat now. My contribution will be probably too small, but I have started.

I want to be well oriented for the rest of my life.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Distance Yourself, Doctors.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dear Indian Doctor,
Congratulations on your bravery to face a pandemic without much support or protection. However it looks like once again a lack of funds and scientific PPE availability will be conveniently translated by one and all into “Doctor Bashing” by sermons on call of duty and other emotional yet unscientific logics. Even some administrators who have exposure to screened few, sitting six feet away from everyone are wearing PPE and N95, while appealing doctors to start opds saying there’s no risk. Should one examine a patient without touching? Do we have seven feet long hands? If we are expected to go within 2-3 feet of the patient, aren’t atleast N95 and gloves essential? But logicless arguments only waste time. Always labelled ‘Money Minded Medics’, now when doctors are sitting home, not minding money, everyone wants them to be in the forefront, appreciated by groups clapping from the safety of their homes. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
But you know what? This has always been, this will always be. Do not expect any major change in social mindset. None of them had merit or patience to study hard for 10-15 years to become a doctor. None of them even knows what sacrifices are required in daily life, family life and personal exposure to fatal conditions on a daily basis. Their tiny grasp is limited to the last visible part: the fees for service. With an exception of honourable few, most cannot understand a medico. Least those who must please and seek attention of majority. And Majority was seldom right as per history. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Logic-less mobs are a reality.
Only those among us who shoe lick and toe line will be projected heroes. Most of us are beyond that. It is pathetic that no doctors’ organisations or glamorous bigwigs stood up against some of the major issues concerning fatal risks to our next generations. (DO NOT FORGET THAT).
That’s why writing this: it Is now upto each one of us to fend for ourselves. Stay calm. This is also not a time to argue with administration. Keep concentrating on your own safety while doing the best for every patient. Wear double masks if you don’t have N95. Wear cloth head cap that you can wash. Wear plain spects/ goggles. Use gloves always. If at all you touch patient wash hands thoroughly. Limit examination to necessary. Ask every patient and relative to cover nose and mouth before entering your chamber. If sanitiser is not available use spirit. Leave wallets, purses, bags in your car/ locker. Disinfect your stethoscope, torch and other instruments. Use digital blood pressure machines where possible, if you must auscultate, have the patient turn away face. Change bedsheets and pillow covers frequently. When you leave hospital please wash exposed skin thoroughly. Upon reaching home leave your footwear outside, cover your face and walk straight to the washroom. Change and immediately soak your clothes in detergent plus hot water. Take a thorough wash with preferably hot water, especially washing exposed areas like head. Take your vitamins without fail. Those with high bp and sugars please take rest and leave freely, don’t take your own health for granted. Eat well, stay safe, all of us have to save thousands and thousands for many more decades. Please do not forget that medical practice is far above and beyond one pandemic, covid or not. We must be available to serve all other deserving patients, and for them we must now take the responsibility of our own safety. No one ever stood by doctors’ well being, no one ever will.
Haven’t we always been distanced by the envious, jealous and unscientific? It’s our turn to use that distance and stay away from those. For every patient who deserves us.
All the best.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Note From A Doctor Who Worked Against Plague and Many Other Epidemics


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

When I volunteered to work in the plague ward during an epidemic while working as a resident doctor, my parents justifiably panicked. I was all excited and trying to stand upto my own ambitious expectations. That was a different time. Many epidemics later, now I am careful. Ambitions and expectations are the same: to serve most and to be the fearless best, but there’s an addition: to be very careful. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

If I know you by myself, you too must be dead scared and frustrated. Not of death alone, but of the perpetual uncertainty atleast now.
Let us remind ourselves that like the umpteen fancy fears and frights in our mind, over ninety percent of bad things that our sometimes-villainous minds project actually never happen. Some bad does happen, but we have learned to move on, whatever happens. Let is not dwell on the fears and umpteen negative scenarios which our minds are creating right now, especially those related to our loved ones, and stupid musings about what happens to our belongings. If we look back, we realise that all of us have been addicted to negative thinking in negative situations. Even the ghosts below our bed have grown up now, it’s high time we do too!

Ok, this virus is indeed bad, there’s a huge risk. But there are countries that have already defeated this virus by arresting its spread. There are many (94% minimum in India) who will recover even if they catch this virus. The better we stay away from each other (my hobby) and wash hands (my passion for which almost every posted student has made fun of me), the faster we will defeat the bugger. Fear generates too much negativity and affects our mood and even immunity. This semi-irrational fear in our mind needs to be replaced by learned ‘care’ and abstinence from the tendency to return to thoughts about death. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I am as tired of the ‘house arrest’ as everyone else too. I am longing for those long drives in sun and rain. It is difficult to concentrate when under fear. But then there indeed are things that engage my mind (of course, besides this frigging cooking, cleaning and laundry) more passionately than any of my fears: that I want more life, that I want a better tomorrow. I am lost in the thoughts of finding love, making friends that vibe, finding cures for neurological patients, driving an Aston Martin one day, and of course the traditional yet true wish: leaving a legacy of something great behind myself: just like most of you think too. Let’s keep planning, now while we have time to reset priorities.

If I was authorised (don’t shoot yet), I would have banned all those media channels from spreading fear. I am only authorised to suggest this to my sane friends who are suffering from immense fear: turn off your TVs, take a book, have tea or coffee, chat with family members and take a nap if you’re bored, rather than digging for bad news. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Make notes about what plans you have to stay safe till you reach hundred. Implement them with a resolution that you will witness the end of this pandemic and achieve everything you want.

Most of us will meet again at that bright end of this tunnel! I want you ‘smiling healthy’ when there.. Whatever little number of close friends I have know that I never say goodbye.
I prefer “See you again soon”.
Take Care till then.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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