Category Archives: poverty

Ban the Entire Medical Profession!

Ban the Entire Medical Profession!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We were always much entertained by a very famous surgeon who would just sit all dressed up in the operation theater. As the worried relatives kept praying in the waiting room, the patient was operated by some other experienced and skilled doctors employed by this ‘famous’ doctor. He would just sit watching TV in his private room within the operation theater, till the surgery was over. Then, he would come out with a benevolent smile, pretend that he was too exhausted, and tell the relatives “that was an extraordinary case. We had almost lost your patient. I had to make a great effort, use all my dedication, knowledge and experience, but finally I could save him. You are very lucky”. Needless to say, the relatives would touch his feet, overwhelmed by emotion, little knowing that this surgeon has not even touched their patient. Bills floated swollen. The patient or the relatives never knew who actually saved that life. In our education to be doctors, we also learnt “what not to do” from such doctors!

With a recent speech in London, I was reminded of this.
It was very unfortunate that the Hon’ble Prime Minister of our own country spoke quite demeaning about the entire Indian medical profession in a foreign country. Nearly one third doctors in the developed world are from India, leaving India because it offers them no good opportunity, compensation or even basic security. The PM seems to disown the patriotic doctors who try to survive in and serve India. Where is the love for India? Does one demonstrate it by showing everyone else in the country down?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Let me at the outset clarify that there are some corrupt doctors, some get favours from pharma, and some participate in malpractice. The government always had rights and law in their hand to act against such doctors. The hubs of corruption evolve when the government allows medical seats to be bought for the meritless rich. Our govt. allows crores of sales of medical seats.

We wish our PM also spoke about how many political leaders in this country own medical colleges and what is the actual income that they generate by sales of UG / PG medical seats? Like the prices of all drugs and stents, why not reduce the price of medical seats too?

He said that Indian doctors “do not travel to Singapore to see poor patients”. Was he serving the poor Indian farmers in London? How many poor farmers or labourers accompanied the PM or his delegations on any of his foreign trips? For a PM who has extensively travelled the world, to criticise highly educated doctors for traveling abroad is so unbecoming! Doctors interact with experts from other countries for learning, continuing medical education, and just because Indian politics has screwed the nation into poverty, doctors cannot stop that interaction which is a standard learning process all the world over. Just as Indian politicians who go abroad for treatment to Singapore and London etc. don’t go there to have fun, doctors too do not go for just fun but for a grand purpose: to bring in new knowledge and skills to Indian people.

Then he said that he “enquired” about stents and found that doctors were “”duping” / deceiving all patients into buying costly stents. The PM has himself said in many speeches that he is not educated much, any medical discussion needs high standards of education, scientific proofs and statistics. I am sure that the right people / departments / doctors were consulted by the PM before taking such decisions. Why did he then say “I found out and changed this” rather than “our medical experts / team did this” ? Under the privacy laws no one will know what stents go into which class of people, but from what the doctors see, most politicians and high placed officers opt for “the best and imported”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We wish that the PM, on his next foreign trip on an international platform, also speaks about the state of the government-run hospitals, the federal funding for healthcare, the quality of healthcare provided at rural and primary healthcare centers all across India, the gross inadequacy of staff and the absence of specialists, ICUs, Operation Theatres, in almost all government-run hospitals.

We also wish the PM speaks on an international platform about the state of hostels for undergraduate and postgraduate medical students in India, where they have to live about 4-6 people in a small single room, while the huge luxurious premises for various govt. officers and ministers lie vacant most of the time.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

We wish the PM also speaks about the good doctors (all his recent speeches imply that there are no good doctors in India), extraordinary medical achievements of Indian doctors, about those who serve in rural India while facing humungous difficulties, those who bring medical tourism to India, those who run so many charity hospitals, those who bring world class healthcare to Indian patients, those grassroot doctors and paramedics who effectively carry out the govt’s schemes all year round by hard work, including polio and other vaccinations, mother-child care etc. without “just once posing” for the media?\

Even under various govt. health schemes, the poorer class patients go to cheaper general wards, while a senior officer from the same office will receive premium class healthcare at a private hospital. This “class-discrimination” in healthcare by govt is not justified. Wish the PM spoke about this too.

Will the PM also speak about the doctors/ health department officials and ministers who help him bring good changes in Indian Healthcare? If the entire modern medicine profession was so bad, why doesn’t the PM ban it completely and provide healthcare with different Babas and Gurus so rampant with powerful blessings today?

We so much wish that the PM speaks on an international platform how he justifies brutal violence against doctors all over India.

India deserves far better healthcare. But that starts with the facilities for majority: at the level of government-run hospitals, healthcare facilities all over India, reachable for the common man, affordable equally to all classes. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Unless all the government hospitals provide high quality free healthcare to all without discrimination, unless all the problems that the govt can resolve in a day by sanctioning adequate staff and funds for government-run healthcare are sorted out, it is futile to just increase the gap between the doctor and patient by blanket-defamation and maligning of the private healthcare on public platforms, especially international. Incidentally, our private hospitals also cater to millions of poor and the very ministers who run the country.

I have nothing personal against any political leader or party, I am hopeful of good changes happening in Indian healthcare. But I feel compelled to speak about the other side, the good doctors who are the pride of our country. I must defend the good in my profession, because I love it just as I love my patients, just as I love my India.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The “Cheap Competition” among Doctors: a Hidden Cancer.

The “Cheap Competition” among Doctors: a Hidden Cancer.
©Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Neurologist, Pune.

A majority of medical students in India are actually from poor or middle class background. Most students come in this profession for service to the suffering and also for social respect. Every doctor passing out in India does not pay crores of rupees for education. This is a system created and maintained by all governments for their strongmen as a source of huge earnings. Many of these “paying” students also work hard and earn their degree. However some few look at the amount spent as an investment and try to earn it back by unfair means. This is NOT the fault of the majority of good doctors (both non-paying and paying) who work hard to acquire their skills and help the society. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

As the society expects “cheapest” advice even for most complicated health issues, some newcomers, those who are under qualified, those who do not have a good number, and some who don’t have the confidence keep their “Consultation fees” quite low, and rely upon alternate income: through tests, procedures and surgeries, through percentage in hospital bills. Thus, though the ‘entry ticket’ is low, the ‘hidden charges’ compensate for the doctor’s (genuine) hard work and skill.
However, not all ‘low fees’ doctors are bad, but keep their rates low to be able to compete, no one wants to criticise those who have low fees for ulterior motives. This competition to keep the consultation fees low to attract patients has generated most evils in the medical practice. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to change soon, as most people prefer this.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The low “Consultation fees“ model works best for even good, skilled and experienced surgeons and branches with procedures (plasty/ scopy etc.), where the patient usually does not question the charges for the procedures or surgery, just because every patient prefers best skilled doctor. There is also a recent trend to offer even “procedures and surgeries” at a competitive low cost by some hospitals, who employ the inexperienced or inadequately qualified/ trained doctors, beginners, lowest skilled nurses, technicians and other staff and instrumentation, catheters, joints, other prostheses. The whole show will be put up for “short term goals”, risking patient’s life and compromising many aspects of good care. In many “cheap packages”, the long term outcomes may be at risk.

Those who run hospitals have many profit sources: right from the tea sold inside the hospital campus to the room charges, pathology and radiology, nursing, drugs and everything used, they earn profits under multiple headings. This is also why they can afford to keep their consultation fees extremely low. However, most doctors employed at such hospitals are not paid anything besides their own low consultation fees, while they remain the face of the “total-bill” for all patients. This system encourages rich doctors who invest in alternative sources of income than the consultation fees alone. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Physicians / specialists must rely only upon their OPD consultation and IPD visits. If a proper examination is to be done in each case, and all questions of every patient are to be addressed, one cannot see more than 20-25 patients in a day. Thus if he / she keeps low fees, it becomes difficult to sustain in any Indian city. So they must see as many patients as they can, only addressing the immediate medical issue, and unable to answer many queries of the patient and relatives. If a good doctor decides to spend more time with each patient, and gives up relying upon the “hidden income”, he must charge a much higher consultation fees to just sustain in a good city.

The social anger against doctors mostly comes from increased expenditures on health and unrealistic expectations. Although there are greedy doctors, a majority are just doing their best to make a good name by offering the best service at a low price. Quality healthcare will always come with a higher price-tag, a good doctor will have a higher fees, and that if one wants the “backdoor / cut / referral practice “ to end, one must be prepared to pay higher fees.

In a country where loud and sweet talk, deception and lies are preferred by majority over genuine service, honesty and truth, it is difficult to change the basic attitudes: on both sides..

There indeed are some honourable doctors and hospitals who know the value of their own service, and offer the best to their patient. But even they are usually considered “Greedy” by the very patients whose miseries they end. There are senior / skilled doctors who charge from three to ten thousand or more per consultation, and most of our powerful and ministers go to these doctors too. Although this consultation fees appears high, the accuracy of the opinion and advice often save the patients lacs of rupees. If a surgeon advises a surgery, he/ she can earn many thousands, but if the same surgeon with his skills and experience treats the patient conservatively, avoids surgery and gets good results, the patient is unwilling to pay even half the price of that surgery for the same result. What would anyone do in such a case? The concept that “A Right Opinion by the Right Specialist” saves the patient huge amounts of money and discomfort is yet to dawn upon the Indian society.

The market of cheap has always survived, but in the long run, cheap options always come with a greater final price tag upon health: often your life.

It is my sincere appeal to all my fellow practitioners from the newer generations to please change this structure. See a moderate number of patients per day, charge according to your skill, experience and time, do not undercharge or bargain, then alone this system of backdoor incomes will gradually change. Of course you must consider concessions for the really poor, and accommodate those who cannot pay by keeping a separate time/ OPD for them.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Neurologist, Pune.

PS:
Many city-based imbeciles without any doctor in their family will immediately say that all doctors should go to villages. Those who suggest that, please make your own children (if you have) doctors (if they have the caliber) and send them to villages. Why doesn’t the government make it compulsory for every mla and mp who draws lifelong financial benefits from the country’s exchequer, to send their kids to medical schools and serve in rural India compulsorily? Why is it not compulsory for the elected members to take all treatment in their own electorate? Every law is bent every which way possible to accommodate the healthcare requirements of all the rich and powerful, whether it is kidney transplant or joint replacement, but when extending healthcare to the poor and unaffording, the same people from various ruling parties conveniently point fingers at the medical professionals!

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“Is The Diagnosis Wrong, Doctor?”

“Is The Diagnosis Wrong, Doctor?”
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Doctor, there is no improvement at all” said the angry husband, throwing the case-file upon my table.

Well this is not an extraordinary sentence for any doctor, one must be prepared to openly deal with this. I had been quite polite and well mannered with them, there was no reason he had to cross that line. I could understand though. When they pay my fees, they expect some result or satisfaction.

While teaching my students, I have always insisted that if the patient / relative says that there is no improvement or change with the prescribed medicine, one must first consider the possibility of a wrong diagnosis, a missed condition or a misinterpreted finding. Doctors are humans, and do commit mistakes, or misinterpret findings. This is normal, and happens with every doctor. Medicine is far more complicated than most people think they know. A good doctor knows this and learns, while all the time keeping patients safe, but a doctor with ego kills his own practice, and may cause harm to the patient.

I asked them to sit down and reassessed the case in detail. A 28 years old female. Headache, giddiness, imbalance, palpitations, breathlessness. Lack of sleep and bouts of crying. Past and family medical history not contributory. Physical examination completely normal. MRI of brain normal, Vitamin B12 and D levels low. I had started vitamin supplements, anti-anxiety medicines and an SOS for headache.

She told me all her earlier complaints had improved, but now she had a severe backache. I told the patient that I was trying my best to understand her condition, and to resolve her problem, but her findings and complaints didn’t match. She looked at her husband, and asked him “May I speak frankly to the doctor?”.

Openly agitated, the husband sarcastically offered to wait outside if she needed privacy. However he stood glued to the chair as if he knew her answer. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The patient thought for a moment, told him it’s ok he can wait inside, then started to talk. She revealed that she was the only child of her affluent parents, had passed engineering, but now had to quit job and stay at home to raise children. They lived in an extended family, with grand in-laws, in laws and an elder brother, his wife and two children. This patient was the ‘last in the line’ to take orders, all others being senior to her. Her husband and in-laws were perfectionists, and she was tired of their continuous expectations. She had dreamed of making a career too, wanted some free time outside home for herself, but year after year, she didn’t get even a minute for herself. She was tired of it all and there seemed no respite. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I am not averse to hard work, but the continuously condescending and fault-finding attitude makes me feel that I am useless”, she said, and added cautiously: “We were in the same institute and my ranks were always better than him. Look at where I am now” she started crying.

I offered them water and coffee, and waited for her to settle down. The husband became restless and defensive, but his tone was far lower. “I understand her problem, doctor, but what can I do? I cannot leave my family. My work pressures are quite high too, the IT industry is going through a bad phase”.

“I can assure you that she has no neurological problem now’ I replied, “she should improve with lifestyle changes, counseling for the family, and adequate free time for herself. I will refer you to a good counselor” I told them.

The husband laughed. “I can understand, but my parents will not. We will see what best we can do for her”. A bitter tone in his voice didn’t escape me.

‘Sir, she told us what bothered her, and must not be held guilty for trying to speak her mind. It will only help identify and treat the problem better. Please see a counselor together and avoid discussing this at home right now” I requested the husband. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

There are many reasons why a patient does not improve. Untreatable medical conditions, depression, seeing the wrong specialist are the most common reasons, but there also are patients who want medical leave,those who want to avoid work, who want attention, so will keep on complaining of false symptoms. They do not improve with drug treatment.
On the other hand there are many who keep on taking the wrong medicines for years, those who self-medicate, do atrocious / injudicious dieting and exercises, yoga that doesn’t suit them, and do not follow the doctor’s instructions about abstinence, who keep on indulging salt, sweet, oil, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs freely available in India. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A doctor remains a lifelong medical student. A doctor who thinks he / she is always correct is most dangerous. It is not uncommon to meet doctors who are angry / upset with the patient / colleagues when their diagnosis, treatment is questioned. The first thought of a doctor when the patient does not respond positively should be to consider a misdiagnosis, reevaluate the case in more detail, reassure the patient, and obtain a second opinion if necessary. All this done, one must look into other possibilities, with an approach to resolve the issue rather than trying to shove down the patient’s throat their own faults.
We all go through bad patches in life, doctors and patients. If the child is wrong, the parents correct them still with love. A doctor’s attitude should be similar, with due care to also protect themselves. If not the doctor, who will understand the patient whose family refuses to understand them? In so many ways, especially in the Indian society, the doctor must don the role of an elder brother/ sister. Although patronising is legally discouraged in medical practice, and should be refrained from in cases where trust is questionable, one can make exceptions for some cases that need reassurance where the family fails to do so.

The nobility of our profession also lies in reassuring the patients that they are well cared for by their doctor, through the thick and thin of their life.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Proud Indian

 

The Proud Indian
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I was a man of action. It hurts me inside when I look at myself now” said the huge gentleman.
It was indeed sad to see the state he was in. Parkinson’s disease not only slows the body, but also makes one quite stiff, as if the body is made of some heavy stone. The side effects of levodopa, the most common medicine used in Parkinson’s disease patients, was also causing too many abnormal movements.I told him that some changes were required in his doses, and that I needed his cooperation and patience. He agreed, then I wrote him a new prescription.

“By the way, Doctor, if any of your poor patients needs any help with treatment or medicines, please let me know. I will arrange” he said once I finished with the instructions. Always needy for this cause, I took down his details.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He came over a month later, happy. This time he donated for an orphanage I often wrote about. I was more than happy, and told him he did not have to pay my fees ever.

“Thank you, Doctor, but you must let me help your poor patients” said Mr. Abdulkadar Mulla.

Over a period of time, I came to know that he donates medicines and free check up kits required for the treatment of young girls from interior adiwasi areas. He spends thousands of rupees every year, since many years, to help run health camps for such children, mostly through the BKL Walawalkar hospital at Dervan in Ratnagiri district.

This time Mr. Abdulkadar Mulla came over, I tried to understand why he is going out of the way to help out children from the interior.

“Because most people are interested in the kind of show-off charity. When you donate to famous organizations in the big cities, your contributions are recognized and published instantly. That is one reason, charity does not often reach where it must: the interior, deprived sections of our country”.
He paused.
“I must say this, doctor, please don’t misunderstand. I feel very bad when someone thinks of me less of a patriot just because I am a Muslim. I have served in Indian police, I have been in the elite VVIP security, I have served India as my own country. It hurts me when some people loose talk that all Muslims should go to Pakistan. India is my country too, I was born and brought up here, studied alongside classmates from many other religions, I have friends in almost every religion. I have served the nation honestly in an extremely responsible position, and am now serving the society by contributing in the most impartial way I can. There are limitations to what I can do as an individual to go on proving my honesty to my country. It hurts when people accuse us without even knowing us. From film stars to cricket players, so many Muslims are making India proud, still some people generalise against us”.

I had no answer. I told him that at least doctors are bred to never entertain that discrimination, that no medical student is fit to become a doctor until he / she can see each patient only as a human life without any other tag. Whether it is policemen or criminals, dirty politicians or reporters who paint our profession in the worst shades, patient from this country or that, from one religion or another: we doctors have only one duty: save life, safeguard health. There is no religion to the happiness of a saved life, nor to the agony of a death. There is no religion to the hand that helps. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I remembered the many Muslim classmates I had through my school and medical college. In fact, I was so close to one in my medical college, that his mother loved me like her own child, and cooked me delicious ‘vegetarian’ dishes whenever I went to their home. Some of my Muslim friends now have their own hospitals treating patients from all religions, especially poor. One of my extremely religious Muslim friends, a super-specialist, treats hundreds of poor patients from all religions: without any discrimination in his treatment or approach.

All of us have been through this, everyone who truly worships God knows love for other human beings. It is very important to pass this “Indianness” on to the future generations, and not fall prey to lesser thoughts, however loud. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Mr. Mulla told me he had had a spinal surgery, during which a surgeon mentioned the charity work at Dervan hospital. “I decided to donate to this hospital at Dervan. This way my hard-earned money reaches where it is most needed” he said. This institute, presently headed by Dr. Suvarna Patil, conducts multiple health-centered activities for children on a charity basis. Many renowned doctors and other professionals from India and abroad participate in their activities.

“Saare Jahan Se Achcha Hindosta Hamara” by the poet Iqbal brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it! I am proud to meet the likes of Mr. Abdulkadar Mulla, who prove by their silent actions who they truly are. I am also proud to belong to the community of doctors, for whom human life is beyond any discrimination.

Jai Hind! Happy Republic Day!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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Beyond Ridiculous!

Beyond Ridiculous!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A 9 year old child with fits / seizures was taken to a renowned Paediatric Neurologist. He started treatment with one of the most commonly recommended (by almost all textbooks) used medicine in the treatment of seizures: carbamazepine. One of the most effective medicine, used since over 50 years in children, that can cause side effects of rashes in less than 1/1000 cases. Still rarely, the side effects can be very severe, causing extensive damage to the skin.
The doctor explained this to the child’s parents, and then started the recommended doses. Pediatric doctors are the best trained doctors in dose calculation, they are more aware than any other specialty about the side effects in general, because children often cannot even speak and parents may not notice some side effects. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Every medicine has side effects. Even vitamins do. Any medicine can potentially cause life threatening reaction, and that’s why the common warning with each medicine: do not use if you are sensitive to this medicine. How will one know whether there will be any allergy / reaction to the medicine without having used it?

Most medicines can cause side effects at high doses, but some can cause dangerous reactions even with the tiniest dose, or test dose. Some medicines (even the one mentioned above) can cause side effects after many months / years of safe use. While the dose dependent (high dose= higher side effect) side effects are somewhat predictable, the ‘idiosyncratic’ (meaning occurring in individual, not all cases, because of the natural tendency of that person) and “allergic” side effects are totally unpredictable, and can be caused by even such common medicines as paracetamol, aspirin, antibiotics or vitamins. Even deaths have been reported after the use of some common medicines, but even in the highly legalized western world, no court holds doctors guilty for the side effects of medicines, if these were discussed and informed to the patient / family. This is against common sense. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This child unfortunately developed a rare but well known side effect of this drug, called Stevens Johnson Syndrome (severe skin rashes), had to be admitted and treated, it cost them one lac rupees. While we sympathise with the child and the family, and wish them the best recovery and health, this is hardly the mistake of a doctor.
But the forum, in a regressive decision, held the doctor guilty, fined him 90000 rupees. This is beyond ridiculous. The court observed that “ if the doctor knew that this drug can cause side effects, he should not have prescribed it”. Translated intellectually, that means NO DOCTOR CAN PRESCRIBE ANY MEDICINE! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Moreover, what will this court advise for the child now? Every seizure medicine has some rare dangerous side effects. There are no medicines free of side effects. Shall the child be left without treatment now? Which doctor will want to treat such a case? Which court will guarantee that the rarest of the rare side effect cannot happen again in this case, and with such ill-informed forums, the next doctor trying to do good to the child will not be held guilty? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Technically, if using a drug that can cause side effects is a crime as per this court, it should hold everyone concerned guilty: the textbooks / medical bodies that recommend this drug, the pharma which produced it, and even the government which allowed it to be sold. Applying the same logic, if some child developed peanut allergy in a hotel or side effects of pollution and dust by travelling on Bangalore roads, will this court hold the hotelier or the city administration guilty and punish them too? Has this forum/ court banned tobacco and alcohol yet, or will it punish the government for the side effects and thousands of deaths caused by these? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The IMA, other medical bodies, Neurological society, and intellectuals should stand by this doctor who has suffered the mental agony. This decision must be challenged in higher courts.
We regret that some patients suffer side effects, no one should, but at the same time, the “side effects of medicine” is not the doctor’s fault, especially in this case where he had explained the parents about such possibility.
We need medically educated forums and judges who can refrain from populist tendencies.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
PS:
I respect courts. I respect higher courts more. But I refuse to believe that every decision made by every judge is correct, that every decision is impartial, that it is not affected by pressures. This article is solely based upon the attached news clip. I must admit that this reporter Ms. Meghna Singhania has done an excellent and impartial reporting. Doctors must please stand united against this decision.

https://medicaldialogues.in/side-effects-of-prescribed-m…/…/

Dictatorial Actions?

Dictatorial Actions?
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

If one minister commits a mistake, does the entire government go?

Even the wrong ministers rarely go.
If one doctor / department has committed a mistake, how fair is it to cancel the license of an entire super-specialty hospital, where over a hundred specialists work, many hundred patients are already admitted and many thousand patients follow up for their regular treatment? What about those who had planned major surgeries and treatments there?

There indeed was a grave mistake. The relatives have suffered an immeasurable loss, and this must be investigated and the guilty must be brought to justice. Every doctor feels sympathy for every life lost. This is a science and practice of life where human mistakes are not impossible, they should be scrupulously avoided. If however they do occur, one must not overreact, especially for populist advantages. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Whether it was one person or an entire team that was wrong, they must be tried. But how fair is the action of closing down the entire hospital? Is this not affecting the basic human rights of the other patients, doctors and staff working there?

Is this a good tradition to follow in a country with an already collapsed government healthcare system? Someone has lapsed. Who made the hospital protocols? Who implemented them? Were they followed? Who issued the hospital license without confirming standards? If license was issued that means some standards were defined. If not, why was the license issued in the first place? If these standards were defined, it is easy to find out who was at fault, and take action accordingly. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is well known that corporate / majorhospitals have to pay hefty bribes almost everywhere to get every permission. They are business houses promoted by an administration that cannot deal with the country’s healthcare overload. That is also a reason why some hospitals / teams may not follow standard protocols, and confidently overbill the patients. Why doesn’t the government define the limits of profits on commodities rather than capping doctor’s fees? The answers are simpler to the wise. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

What about the many other good doctors who worked at this hospital, who had joined there as a career, who had bought homes nearby to reach the hospital faster? What about the students who had joined there as post graduates in various specialties? What about the staff?

Was it impossible to hand over the charge to some doctor’s body / organisation or under a competent authority for better running rather than closing down the hospital? The correct action then should have been suspension of the involved department / team till the facts were found out, and after medical and legal opinions, trial as per law. This is what every minister, every administrator, every TDH of any significance demands and gets as a basic right even after grave crimes. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

There was of course a basic investigation. Why not exactly find out and take strict action against the medical / non medical administrators or owners involved? Add to this the apathy shown by medical bodies and other hospitals in this case.

Welcome to this glimpse of future that will be commonplace for all hospitals if no one acts now. Populist headlines will never solve the grave healthcare that deficits India faces.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

My sympathies, as those of every good doctor in India, lie with the relatives who have suffered. They must get justice.But that should not be at the cost of destroying the careers of many other medical and non medical people who were not guilty

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Respect: The Depreciating Indian Salary

Respect: The Depreciating Indian Salary
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Over 1.5 Crore Every Year! That becomes more than ten lacs per month! Wow!!” my student showed me the news that some brilliant engineering students passing out from India were hired by some software biggies in Campus Interviews, “They will start their careers at that salary. That’s life!”

I felt proud, as always, these news and similar have always made me feel that the Indian academic talent has always been looked up to and rewarded by the developed world. The tiny speck of jealousy that we earlier felt for our classmates who went for engineering and had their own homes and cars while we were still finishing internships has faded away long ago. The only regret that sometimes peeps out from the past is that of never having fully enjoyed our teens and youth. The fact that most doctors from India also earn huge salaries in the west as well as the middle east speaks a lot about the flaws in our “Indian” thinking.

“Doctors get respect and that is the best that you can get in life. People think of doctors as Gods. You should never think about money” told every sore-throated, pot bellied and self proclaimed socialist who did not become a doctor, and mostly had no doctor in family. This ranged from our own classmates to the highest administrators in the country.

Over the years, I now feel that even the engineering or other stream’s graduates are almost in the same boat. I cannot wish upon the newer generations what we went through.
What is really making us proud here? That India cannot afford to use its own best talent in any field? That the best in all fields are taken away, because what the best Indian companies can offer them is nowhere near what the world outside offers them? That the best salaries in all government jobs are reserved for bootlickers above the age of 55? That in no field can the government find the young talents superior to white haired yes men? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Or boast with a shameless pride that the most revered Satya Nadellas and Sundar Pichais made in India cannot find career scope in their own country?

Or, while proclaiming “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam” (The World Is My Family) on one hand, are we going to perpetually cry the same song of socialism and patriotism, expecting all of them to only follow the examples of the rare (and respectable) ones who chose to shed material life for the country? India needs a million good volunteers in every field who will live and die poor while serving the society. But to force this upon all those who graduate from India is to invite them to leave the country. From politics and administration to Judiciary and lawyers, we need people who will work free or low cost, because the main disease: poverty and illiteracy, is a never ending curse in India. These are the people who choose the governments who throw “low cost everything” crumbs at the society, rather than uplifting the society to respectable self sustaining, paying capacity. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande The lifelong perks of representatives elected for even five years, from any political party are regularly updated, but the salaries and pensions of doctors and other employees who work lifelong are never upgraded without agitations and then only with allegations of greed!

No doctor wants to be a bad doctor, but no doctor wants to spend life in poverty and insecurity.

If at all a doctor decides to do charity and see all patients free/ concessional all his / her life, not only will they be lost to poverty and anonymity, but our government or media will never notice them. All they get is more paperwork to comply with every day, fear of suspension humiliation by the administrators and a salary that’s a shame given their talent and hard work.

There is this curious tendency in India: to force or to beg in the name of charity, social service or patriotism rather than rewarding the talent. There are very few examples of honesty, hard work and talent rewarded without political connections. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Are the medical students any less talented than their counterparts in engineering or other streams? Don’t they study equally hard and work 24/7 many more years before they qualify? Even after that, the highest salary that the government offers the starting doctor (even engineer) is laughable, and if they wish to work at a private/ corporate hospital, they cannot decide the rules of payment strategies. If they must start their own set up, they need huge investments, over fifty permissions, many recurring, every one requiring bribe in some form or other. And whichever one they choose from the three career options above, from day one the society and media will have already presumed them guilty of extracting money from patients, the government and even some judges urging them to understand the feelings of relatives beating up doctors. I wonder how many ministers , judges or media bosses would like to understand the feelings of those who beat them up for something their client/ petitioner didn’t like. The most pathetic part is that while all of the above officers are inaccessible to common man, they still have armed security, and the junior most doctor who faces armed relatives is denied security even by law! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Most top medical graduates and postgraduates, like almost all other streams from India are leaving voluntarily because of this situation. To deal with this, the best options that some governments came up with were long term bonds to force govt. service (without telling anyone where the govt. spends so much on medical education), and canceling permissions to leave India even after the bond is completed. Bravo! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Hon’ble PM has time and again declared many institutes like AIIMS to be opened across India. This is welcome, but we must also look at the state of conditions and staff in the existing health institutes run by the government. That needs billions for repairs, facilities and hiring better staff. Unless the salary structure for young and talented medical specialists increases , there are no chances of any AIIMS-like institutes running efficiently, they will soon become dirty buildings with low budget staff, where desperate patients are chronically dissatisfied and mobs find chances to vent anger.

Earlier I had immense respect and pride for every doctor who decided to return to India with a positive attitude and a wish to serve the society, their only expectation being living a modestly good life. Now I doubt if they are doing justice to themselves or their family, by choosing a life of financial and personal compromises, where they not only sacrifice, but are still looked upon as “looters”, face a violent society and a prejudiced government.

Ten years ago, I would have told this student of mine “let go of a good life, stay in India, we have a lot to do for our country”. Today, I don’t interfere with their decisions to make a career outside India. Because I love my India as much as any soldier would,and I also love the talented people in it.

Jai Hind!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Death and Disability by Overwork:  An Indian Diagnosis 

Death and Disability by Overwork:
An Indian Diagnosis
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“We are helpless, our life has no worth in the eyes of authority “ said the school teacher.

He had recovered from unconsciousness just a few hours ago, his brain had developed huge clots due to thickening of blood, because he was dehydrated overworking. Due to back pressure generated in the blocked veins, there was bleeding in his brain.

“I was out on the election duty, and did not get time to eat or have water. I returned late night and felt nauseated because of the bus travel, so just had a little rice and slept off. The next morning I had terrible headache. Just after the breakfast the headache worsened and I started vomiting. As our leaves were canceled, it was compulsory to go to work. So in spite of the headache I went for a bath, then I don’t remember, till I woke up in the hospital”.

His wife continued: “I heard a big noise in the bathroom and rushed there, found him lying in a pool of blood, convulsing”. She paused to wipe tears, still unable to overcome the horror of that memory, then resumed: “I called our neighbors, one of them took us to the rural hospital in his tractor. They did a CT scan and started treatment “.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“But you are a school teacher, why were you doing an election duty?” I asked him.

“It is compulsory for all govt staff. We must comply or we won’t get our salaries or promotions.” He replied.

This wasn’t new. Doctors often attend many a police, labourers, and other “government service“ personnel serving either the state of central government (under different political parties), who drop either sick, unconscious or dead while overworking. The common factor is they are almost all low level desperate employees who cannot say ‘No’ to the forced additional work thrust unto them. I have never seen a senior officer or a politician coming to the hospital due to physical overwork. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

To add to the inequality, it is the senior officials / politicos, ministers who can avail of deluxe / higher budget private medical facilities including overseas medicare, whereas the actual ones who get sick shedding blood and sweat in the field are left at the mercy of scanty healthcare facility in government hospitals or low budget schemes at private hospitals. Much like the red light cars ferrying ministers getting preferences over even the ambulances for the poor.

Recently a police officer was brought by his colleagues, he had developed high blood pressure due to an extended duty. A blood vessel in his brain had ruptured, causing huge bleeding. With a great effort he recovered from the coma in few days, but his speech is now forever gone, and he is bedridden due to paralysis on one side. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Doctors working in different state / central hospitals too are not an exception. Many tasks / schemes / targets are mindlessly shoved into their routine, presuming that if someone is a government servant, he/ she is a slave to the whims of authorities who can order anything. Besides being taken for granted about 24/7 availability, besides completely ignoring the human right recommendations about working hours, the threatening, demeaning and pressurising humiliation continues almost in every field, where the lower you rank, the worst your slavery.

In a country with excess population, why should there arise a need for one person being burdened with the work of two or three? Why should a school teacher perform an election duty, population stats/ census duty, etc? Why should a police employee work beyond his / her physical capacity? Why cannot the governments hire more people in a country teeming with unemployed youths agitating about almost everything everywhere?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

If someone wants to work extra for patriotic or financial reasons, they should be able to. But when one is forced to work beyond capacity and legitimate duty, we are encouraging not only health risks, but creating chances of nothing being done correctly. Stress is a major killer via diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and depression/ suicides, and while we encourage Yoga for stress relief, we must also reduce overloading one with the duties of three.

“I sympathise with your condition, you should recover well, but you must avoid such overworking now. Also never fast. Drink plenty of water. I feel bad about your extra duties.” I told him.

He smiled in embarrassment, and said “I feel ashamed that while I teach my students to stand against injustice and inequality, to courageously fight to set right what is wrong, I am myself a coward who cannot do so, for without this job I will not be able to survive. I want to be a good teacher, I love teaching and my students love me very much, but inside, I feel I am lying to them when I accept this humiliation by those who I work for. Believe me, doctor, that even when I got unconscious, no one among those who ordered me extra work cared whether I woke up or not”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He was telling the desperate story of many, and I found myself unable to answer once more: that if we have so many educated people who have time to quote history and protest against various political parties or events, if we have so many rich leaders who openly award crores for killing someone (hello, Milords of Indian Justice!), why cannot we distribute duties well and let a school teacher happily just teach instead of dying forcibly doing something else?

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Dedicated to all teachers.

The Business Of Medical Bargain

The Business Of Medical Bargain
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“I will die now” the forty-plus gentleman said in a semi-threatening way, “I haven’t slept all night yesterday as I was with my brother, I even skipped my lunch today. I must sleep now. I will leave my cell number, if something happens to my brother, they can call me. You are around, right?”

“Yes, the ICU team is looking after your brother round the clock, I am around till late night.” I told him. There was no point in telling him that I hadn’t slept for last three nights either.

On the prior night at about 10.15 PM, after my work hours, as I went to receive my sister on the airport, I had received his panic call, as this gentleman’s brother had developed sudden convulsions. This brother had seen me few months ago, in emergency, when he had developed a stroke. I remembered that they were quite unhappy about the bills then in spite of a good recovery. They had left with sarcastic remarks about the bills. A good memory is essential for every doctor.

I asked them to rush to the casualty, gave him the number for ambulance, and went to park my car at the airport.

“One Hundred Rupees, Sir” said the person on the parking desk.
“But I am parking only for few minutes, I have come to pick someone up” I asked him, surprised that the parking charges. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
“Even for entry the charge is 100 rupees” he told me with a cold smile. I had started getting calls from my sister, she had landed. I paid his hundred, parked the car and went on to receive her. On the way, I called up the casualty and issued instructions about this patient who was to arrive there.

Sis was tired, but happy to see me. I told her that we had to make a stop at the hospital on the way back, there was an emergency.
“When will you become a senior doctor who does not have to attend patients at night?” she asked with a sarcastic smile.
“Never”, I replied, “All Indian doctors die young and working.”
“Shut up, don’t talk rubbish things like that” she said with her feminine instinct. “I desperately need tea, can I get some and drink it on the way?” she asked.
We went to get tea and my coffee.
“Two hundred and fifty Rupees, Sir” said the attendant at the airport tea stall.
“Why?” I asked a stupid question almost knowing his answer, “Even an MBBS doctor charges less than your tea/ coffee”.
“GST” he replied, calmly. As if airport shops were dishing out cheap before GST!
After counting the money and safeguarding it, he gave me two sips each of tea and coffee. We also bought 500 ml drinking water for another 100 rupees, and drove to the hospital. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Leaving Sis in the car, I went to the casualty. The patient arrived in a few minutes, it was nearly 11 PM. He was still unconscious, convulsing and bleeding from his mouth. The casualty team got into efficient action, and in a few minutes the convulsions stopped. Writing his orders and answering many relevant and irrelevant questions asked by his irate brother, explaining him the situation and criticality, I drove Sis home well past midnight.

Three days later, he was discharged, fully recovered. Till then I received innumerable calls day and night because of their complaints ranging from blankets, food and ‘the nurse did not come immediately when I pressed the bell’, to medical management and doses etc. The patient and his brother had spent most of their life in Switzerland (restauranteers). They net-researched a lot and tested my knowledge and patience together, till the time I finally and subtly gave them an option to handover the case to a “Senior” colleague, very good but famous for not answering any questions at all. Then they stopped.

Upon discharge, the patient and the brother brought me the hospital bill. A doctor has the same control on the hospital billing that a common man has on the government, I told them so.
“The hospital bill is okay” he said, “but you have charged a thousand rupees per day. That is too much”.

“What would you charge, Sir, if you were a superspecialist with high qualifications and over 20 years of experience, rushing late night to attend an emergency?” I asked him, “What will you charge if you were to attend a person 24/7 under your care, answerable by law and having a right to sue you for lakhs if you commit simplest of a mistake?” © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Three Hundred rupees is the maximum I think a doctor should charge. Our family physician charges us that much since last 5 years” he said without a blink.

“Sorry Mister, we are not bargaining about this. Your family physician is gracious, but even he is charging you far less compared to the western standards of care you expect. What essentials of life have gone cheaper in last 5 years? Even the T shirt you wear is an international brand costing above two thousand rupees. Just because you are in India, you did not buy a three hundred rupees T shirt, or a local brand of car or cellphone. Indian doctors already charge far lower, being aware of the poverty status of multitudes. You must not take advantage of this and claim minimal rates for all medical services. In the western world, a specialist won’t have come for you to the casualty after his work hours, nor would you be able to reach him / her, and every consult would cost you over five times what I have charged you”.

“But Doctors should not think about money” said the patient.

I had decided long ago never to discuss money with patients. This had cost me immeasurable losses, some dupe the doctor / hospital outright, while some think a polite sweet talk is enough fees. Some bring VIPs, some threaten blatantly. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Even the insurance companies want every medical service to be available at a concessional rate for everyone!

God has given me enough and I am thankful. I go to work every day with an aim to return God’s favours in whatever small ways I can. However, I don’t understand the rich / affording people who take advantage of what is meant for the poor.

“Indian doctors spend only two minutes with the patient” said a recent headline, adding copious amount of fuels to the anti-doctor sentiments of the society. This is a clear equivalent of the naked pictures such newspapers publish to get attention. They conveniently forget the doctor-patient ratio in the western world, the payments for medical services, availability of specialists, waiting period for appointments, the education and behaviour of patients, non-interference by politicians, working hours and facilities for the doctors, and most importantly the fact that India provides doctors to almost every country upon earth, and gets patients from many developed countries too.
Because they know, people will buy the newspaper only if they print those naked pictures! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Ok, just give us some concession” said the brothers.
“Do you ask concessions in parking lots, in coffee shops, in hotels?” I asked.
Disgruntled, he replied “No, but you are a doctor, you must be compassionate to the patient”.

“Compassionate to the patient or his greed for money and skimpiness?” I wanted to ask, but time was running short, so I wrote a note or the billing to cut off some amount from my consultation fees, and resumed work.

India needs a two-tier medical charging system, with those below poverty line getting all basic medical services free and special services at a basic cost, while all others must pay relevantly.

My businessman friend, who is also an excellent and compassionate human being was laughing at me. “You doctors let people do this to you. There is a difference between being compassionate and letting someone take advantage of you. The later is stupidity. There should be a special window for bargainers of doctor’s charges and medical bills, and the bargaining should begin at the time of admission. That is when the value of saving health and life, and the importance of timing are best felt. Once the patient improves, the value of medical service received becomes zero. If they cannot afford, give them the basic treatment for emergency and let them go to a hospital where they can afford the treatment. There are many choices. To insist on a set of specialists, luxuries and then to refuse to pay is the general tendency, you will always lose in this case”.

Almost every doctor enjoys saving lives, treating thousands to relive their suffering. However, the continuous onslaught of allegations about high fees, legal threats, mudslinging by some politicians and socially prominent influential nitwits, combined with a callous attitude by most media takes away so many proud pleasures from a doctor’s life!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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PS: there are some who continuously fail to grasp the main issue and continue their age-old song about some doctors and hospitals doing too many tests, taking advantage. The simple solution is : don’t visit such doctors or hospitals. Don’t do the tests. Be happy.

Busting Medical Myths

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Busting Medical Myths
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Just one month after his marriage, this young man suddenly developed weakness on the right side of his body, slurring of speech and started becoming drowsy. His mother, a labourer who collects empty liquor bottles with him for survival, brought him to one of the biggest hospitals in Pune. The whole family had been dependent upon him after the death of his labourer father.

His MRI showed swelling in the brain, likely due to infection. One test on the cerebrospinal fluid suggested possible tuberculosis of the Brain. This being the most common, rampant infection in India, we started with the anti-tuberculosis medicines, and other drugs to reduce swelling over his brain. He improved, and was discharged in seven days.

In the case of any nervous system tuberculosis, the treatment has to be taken for 18 months. If ignored / delayed, this disease can cause serious problems like paralysis, convulsions, permanent disability or even death. This poor family with inadequate education not only reached the hospital in time, but completely trusted their doctors, and followed all instructions. They refuted the innumerable powerful traps of unscientific treatments, taboos and ignorance, broke through the poverty barriers to reach one of the private superspecialty hospitals in a city like Pune, and were cared for without any discrimination.

Today, Nitin Londhe completed 18 months of treatment and is being declared free of his dreadful illness “Tuberculous MeningoEncephalitis”. He has continued his labour work since after the discharge. He told me today that many truckloads of empty liquor bottles are collected in every city every day, (No wonder people cannot afford medical treatments!) many agents sell these bottles back to the liquor companies for a commission, and labourers like Nitin get 200-300 INR per day for collecting such bottles.

Happy that he had recovered and was stopping the treatment, he told me “My mother is uneducated, but she believes that there is nothing costlier than health and life, one must never ignore illness, money has no meaning if health or life is at risk. We wanted the correct treatment”.

I told him I wanted people to know his story for two reasons: that even the most difficult cases of Tuberculosis like that of the brain can also completely improve, and that most of the biggest corporate and rich hospitals admit and treat the poorest of the poor, saving thousands of patients every day. The myths generated by some politicians, media and some filmstars, that all doctors and private hospitals just “mint money” and kill people while all political leaders, filmstars and media reporters are holy saints, who are true saviours of the poor had to be busted with such examples.

Millions of poor, non-paying as well as concessional, are treated and saved by private practitioners and biggest of the big private hospitals every day, everywhere in India. Unfortunately, the hole of Indian poverty is too big to patch, national / federal healthcare systems are failing, and so the demands and expectations from private practitioners are never ending.

“Do you have any questions?” I asked after thanking him.

Shyly, he asked “Can I do dancing stunts? I love dancing and I like to dance on headstand”.

If anyone deserved madly dancing today, it was him. I told him so.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: Thank You, Mr. Nitin Anton Londhe for the courage and permission to share this story.

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