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Change The Medical Scene, India: Article One. Healthcare Failure In India: Problems And Solutions

1: Etiopathogenesis
(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This is my heartfelt attempt towards initiating a change in the Indian healthcare system. We all, even the government, wants it to improve but nobody seems to know where to start.

I appeal the younger generation of doctors to please think deeply about this article in terms of your future, unless you want to face the same humiliation, insecurity, inhuman attitudes, suppression and threats all your life, just because you are divided. I intend to offend no one, my non-Utopian aim is that every patient as well as every doctor should be happy, healthy and satisfied. There indeed are more good than bad doctors in India, but guess who dominates the scene.

In this series of articles I have tried to first identify the basic problems, and will propose probable answers in my later articles. Before we analyse outsiders, let us first take an honest look at ourselves.

Problems Within Medical Community:

  1. We have many class differences between doctors. This is the most prominent cause of non-unity of doctors. These class differences may be summarised as (a): Intellectual: some doctors are far more intelligent and skilful than others. (b): Cultural: some doctors know the best ways to behave and speak with patients, others have an arrogant, ill-mannered, abusive and sometimes filthy, inviting a bad reputation. (c): Academic/ Clinical: some doctors are trained at extremely good institutes, some put in gigantic self-study efforts, and therefore are academically and / or clinically better even if their medical degree is the same. (d): Financial: some need financial support and critical effort to survive through medical courses, fighting till in their thirties to settle down, while for some others, financially it’s a cakewalk.
  2. Shameful tendency amongst doctors, of discrimination based upon State, Caste, Region, Religion, Academic Institute, City, Financial Status or Political party, generating an “Insider-Outsider” culture. This has also resulted in many hospitals employing doctors from a particular religion or socio-cultural/ financial status even if better candidates are available. Few honourable exceptions.
  3. Jealousy, Insecurity and Envy: There are successful and struggling doctors in every branch. The shameful tendency of some established doctors to suppress and disallow juniors in their institutes is well known. Most wise institutes now employ two or more competing masters in every branch and fire up their egos against each other, to have them fight tooth and nails. Guess who profits and who bleeds. The comic tragedy is that even very brilliant doctors fall prey to such tactics. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
  4. Financial desperation: Juniors who come from poorer backgrounds, in spite of better abilities, have no money to invest, make their own hospitals, and must work at bigger hospitals under such competing seniors, and the only way they are allowed to survive is by getting better numbers. This results in a very hostile, bitter work culture.
  5. Killing Humanity: The entire medical community is guilty of perpetually ignoring, intimidating, suppressing and blackmailing medical students, especially postgraduate resident doctors. India has probably the worst inhuman treatment for its budding and junior doctors, with no one interested in addressing their problems. They live in most pathetic conditions, often six in a single room. They are inhumanly overworked, with a shameless answer “We did it, now you do it” from their seniors. “No food and No sleep” is nothing to be proud of, it is Torture. Post graduate students and resident doctors are not only FORCED to work far beyond human capacity, they are overtasked with mindless curriculums. The “Slaves” in our history were far better off compared to how the resident doctors are treated today in India.
  6. Extremely low quality medical institutes: Guess who owns and runs these, still churning out valid degree holders.
  7. Nepotism: Where “Premium” students, often children of the powerful, politicians, administrators, doctors, socially prominent are treated differently, groomed specially and airlifted to success while others, however meritorious and efficient, are humiliated and suppressed. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
  8. Master-Slave Culture: In every private or Corporate owned hospital, there is an unwritten rule: never cross the Master-Slave boundaries, never ask questions, you are here because we allow you to be. Should you dare to correct someone about policies, ethics, financial irregularities, excess profiteering, you are unceremoniously thrown out, given the title of a rebel, a troublemaker, and your reputation as a doctor is torn beyond redemption. This is the worst for surgeons than physicians, as ‘badmouthing’ / deliberate ill-reputing of a surgeon can ruin their entire career. Unfortunately, it is not only the hospitals, but different classes of doctors mentioned above participate in this mudslinging too. No institute in India has an honest troubleshooting department for doctors. There is no respite, there is no organisation, doctor’s body, government department that protects a doctor thrown out, defamed or harassed by corporates or big hospitals. Very few hospitals are doctor- friendly.
  9. Even in government service, sycophancy is the strictest tradition.
  10. The SP Syndrome: Shoelicking-Postholders are the worst tragedy in healthcare. Even after being qualified doctors, these ‘doctors’ have learnt the quick-ladder culture to sit in a medical administrative chair. They know which side to please, and are seldom seen working in the interest of either the doctors or the profession. They have but one agenda: strengthening their chair-bum glue. They are found almost everywhere in healthcare, and many enjoy the administrative superiority and control over better qualified and even senior doctors. There are rare honourable exceptions who try and balance the hospital and doctor’s sides. However, those involved in policy making are rarely in direct contact with the patients, have rarely had a reputation / experience of good medical practice, and are happy with hypothetical speeches sweetened for their powerful masters. Senior doctors have never stood up for an unfairly fired or colleague, and often our own community disowns a doctor harassed by healthcare giants or government. Thousands of excellent doctors have either left the country or live in dark anonymity just because there was no Godfather for them. This is a major cause of policy failures and pathetic research in Indian healthcare, inspite of having some of the best medical brains upon earth.
  11. The only thing that helps a good doctor is long-term goodwill generated over years, where patients spread a good word about their relief from that doctor. Against this is pitched the permission to hospitals for self-advertising, which often misleads the society.
  12. Once a doctor starts a hospital, there are so many taxes / overheads that he / she must shoulder, so much paperwork, that it is difficult to concentrate upon patients alone. Add innumerable laws, restrictions, rules that make it impossible to sustain over long term. Bribes are a stark reality wherever rules, restrictions are involved. This is why many doctors have closed down smaller hospitals.
  13. While doctors are only allowed to charge their (mostly) limited fees, almost everyone else in the profession earns a lot more profit, often unjust. From rooms, service, nursing, gloves, catheters, to procedures, from canteen to labs to radiology to pharmacy, the hospital and pharmas earn profits everywhere (this is acceptable in proportion of the investment). The one paid least in the final bill is the doctor / surgeon, who usually earns a piddly sum in spite of being the most important factor in the chain. The doctor is also primarily responsible medico-legally for every case. Patients are upset with the doctor even after saving their lives because the bill is fat, not knowing that most doctors have no say in hospital billings. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
  14. The Corruption: There is no denying the fact that some doctors participate in various “unethical” means of earning via “commissions”. While all corruption is wrong, this is an extremely hot and debatable issue, where many questions are unanswered. For example, if a doctor owns a hospital and a lab and a pharmacy, he can profit under all three headings, but if a doctor working with him is also paid from this profit, it is presumed unethical. Our society is too financially biased, and it will never accept the necessity of profits in healthcare. However, the same society or its government has no answers to what a good ethical doctor should do if there are financial emergencies like this pandemic where his / her income is near nil. Hence the doctor is left to ensure his / her own income, with or without patients. Our society will preach doctors a lot of pompous lessons of ethics and compassion, but won’t feed the doctors family if he is in financial trouble due to all the good and free work he does. To completely eliminate “backdoor incomes”, the only way is that the doctor’s fees will shoot up.
  15. Over-smart Attention seekers: This community of doctors will do anything to garner attention. They will make news for being cheapest, they will construct new theories of individual, private research and blabber about them on national / state channels, massage the egos of power, speak against their own colleagues just to get praise from society and media and so much more. They hunt celebrities and powerful to be seen with, always speak the language of “Sweet, Beautiful, Positive” and imply from their wisely framed speech that only they can understand compassion and patient’s feelings while other doctors don’t. These are the usual early birds on TV, who criticise their own professional colleagues whenever there is violence against doctors, preaching about communication, making the society feel that ‘bashing up of junior doctors’ is justified, just because they could not communicate well. They will go to any unscientific extent to fool the public to be in good books of the government and administration, and completely vanish when their profession is suffering. This attention-seeking community has done the worst harm to medicos and the reputation of our noble profession.
  16. Doctor’s Organisations: “………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………” .

To Be Continued
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Please Share Unedited


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Sir, we are screwed. The Chief Minister and other ministers have closed all doors, they won’t respond. Our careers are in grave danger. Can you please help us?” I frantically spoke.
From the other end of the phone, the Don, Dr. Nitu Mandke answered: “See me at my home at 12 midnight”.
The Maharashtra state resident doctor’s agitation for dignity, national pay parity and better living conditions was on, and I was given the responsibility of coordinating and being the face. We had successfully established a multilevel network.
When students go on a strike anywhere in any field, it is almost always out of desperation, either for dignity or for rebellion against some sort of suppression by the system. Students never rebel for money or power. This raw student power is almost as mighty as the army, and although it falls prey to political misuse sometimes, it has tremendous capacity towards achieving intellectual evolution of the society. The government always treats any unrest as an offence to its ego, and uses everything at its disposal: CID, Police, Administration, Force, Threats, Caste Politics, Cheating and Legal torture to mow down student agitations. Students have no money, no experience and rare political or social backing, and must unite and stand up for themselves. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

On the fourth day of the strike, a big politico from the ruling alliance came over to our office at Mumbai KEM. There was no telling between him and a mafia goon. The members of student’s central committee: Dr. Sanjay Singh, Dr. Dinesh Kabra, Dr. Narender Sheshadri, Dr. Pramod Giri, Dr. Nilesh Nikam, Dr. Kuldeep, Dr. Vishal Sawant, Dr. Noor, Dr. Shahid, and few others were with me. The politico did not have any scruples using an arrogant, raw and filthy language to threaten that if we do not stop and withdraw the strike, our careers and even life will be in danger. As he was from the ruling party and threatened us in presence of the police, there was nothing we could say.
There are angels everywhere. A senior police officer who was supposed to “keep a constant watch” upon us ‘student leaders’ was quite fatherly. He told us “Do what you must, but don’t declare. Dumb people cannot interpret silence. Stay away from any violence”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Unknown calls kept threats alive. That is when a resident doctor suggested we meet the Don: Dr. Nitu Mandke, the famous heart surgeon who was known to be a fearless, straightforward celebrity doctor.

We went to his home, and waited, hosted by his extremely courteous family. He returned home past midnight. We briefed him the details. He asked a few questions to assess our determination and strength. He asked us to stay united and avoid any misbehaviour during the agitation. To our surprise, he picked up the cellphone and called the Chief Minister’s PA. The CM was fortunately available, and talked to Dr. Mandke. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

After the call, Dr. Mandke told us: “CM has advised us to meet the Deputy CM tomorrow. Two of you come to Lilavati Hospital tomorrow at 2 PM. I will take you to the DyCM.”.
At Lilavati hospital, Dr. Mandke’s chamber was intimidatingly clean and posh, yet simple. He checked our applications for the CM and corrected them with his beautiful pen. His briefcase had every essential of writing stationary, the mark of a perfect man.

As we waited, I asked him cautiously: “Sir, shall we start?” He replied that he was waiting for someone to carry the bag on his table. I offered that I will carry it. He laughed his thunderous laugh, and looked at us as if we were small puppies. “ Deshpandyaa, that bag has two and a half crore rupees cash for construction of my hospital. A professional bodyguard will carry it. People kill for that. Do you want to carry it?”. I shut up.

In his big car, for the 45 minutes that his bodyguard drove us to the DyCM, I asked Dr. Nitu Mandke questions about what was going through his mind when he was actually operating the Shiv Sena Supremo Mr. Balasaheb Thackeray. Such an enormous pressure it must have been!
“Oh yes, it was stressful. But he is a gentleman, and he had assured my safety. His word is enough”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

That’s when we told him how some politicos had threatened us recently. He laughed and replied something that has been tattooed upon my cortex permanently:
“Rajas, a doctor is a doctor and king of lives forever. Politicos come and go. Idiots misbehave with others when the have any post or power, in any field. You should not budge. It is pathetic to see doctors licking shoes of those in power, under various pretexts. It is up to you to maintain your dignity and pride. That is the true luxury, everyone cannot afford it. So long as you do the right thing, fear nothing. The few crores in that bag is nothing compared to how I feel about myself”.

We entered the VIP zone and bungalow. His car was not stopped anywhere. The DyCM offered us tea, and gave us a patient listening.
“These junior doctors and students are my boys, our own boys, they will look after the health of our people tomorrow. You must help them” Dr. Mandke insisted. The DyCM assured he will. The spell was broken, talks resumed.
Many twists and turns later, one of the most memorable strikes was called off.

A year later, I saw a white Lexus car in our KEM campus at Mumbai. Fond of cars and having never touched a Lexus, I went to see it from a close distance. Just as I tried to touch it, the driver’s window rolled down, and I heard “Deshpandyaa, open the door and come in. Do you like my new car?”
And I sat besides the King of proud men, one of the most proficient Cardiac Surgeons, Dr. Nitu Mandke, in his Lexus. The feeling is unforgettable, not only for the Lexus, but for his simplicity, love and affection for a ‘nobody’, a junior doctor like myself!

Needless to say, then onwards, I have guarded my dignity and pride as a doctor more than any other possession I have. That took away many opportunities and huge finances, still I am doing quite well by God’s grace, and Dr. Mandke’s blessings.
How I feel about myself is more precious than anything I can earn. The luxury of pride is mine.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to all students, resident doctors, proud people in every field, student unions and their apolitical fearless leaders.
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We are suffering, India!


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

After witnessing hundreds of careless, maskless and even purposeless (sitting by roadside) people today, I don’t know how many more weeks it will take for the pandemic to go. The longer it takes, the longer will all of us who work for patients have to use excessive precautions that include an extremely uncomfortable get up. When you use such masks in closed hospital environments, in few hours your head aches, you start feeling suffocated, giddy, hot and tired. You cannot just remove everything and buzz off in two hours like many officials or politicos do after meetings/ TV bytes (many of whom btw don’t even know how to properly use even simple face masks).
I bet no one other than doctors or nurses can wear a proper covid gear for 8-12 hours for days in a row while being among patients. Even to take phone calls, drink a sip of water or have a desperate morsel of food after hours of work is a dangerous circus because this get up comes with a lot of precautions. When this happens because others are irresponsible, it is time to stand up for oneself.
Every doctor, every nurse is suffering this torture every day, since months, thanks to both sides. On one side are those in administration unable to control careless, arrogant, irresponsible people all over the country, and are therefore exerting all their angry pressures upon doctors and hospitals, trying to impress public by ceaselessly speaking against these frontline warriors. On the other side are irate, fearful, frustrated and poor and middle class patients and relatives who vent all their anger upon healthcare workers, because none of the “TV Star” faces claiming to be on their side on TV is actually reachable in real life for them. Have you seen a rich or powerful patient ‘suffering’ in this pandemic?
The ever irresponsible Indian media is also creating a havoc greater than the pandemic by spreading poison against healthcare set-ups, and an entirely new crop of ‘social workers’ looking for loopholes, blackmail material, tiniest mistakes to make viral news/ videos against doctors and hospitals. This is their moment of awaited glory: exploiting a rotten situation. It is surprising that while many doctors / interns and nurses have been served notices and have faced suspensions for speaking out the truth, no action is taken against false information deliberately being spread by either media or those who are making videos in and around hospitals during lockdowns.
We are suffering, India, and the careless, irresponsible attitude of our people is causing many deaths as well as extreme torture to all healthcare workers. Many doctors and nurses have been infected, many have died, and many are on the verge of a breakdown. Some have started thinking about quitting.
We are proud to serve, to risk our lives, for every patient from every religion, every state, rich or poor, but we can not continue to die for stupid, egoistic crowds who do not care if others die even when that is avoidable. That is indirect murder, and everyone irresponsible during this pandemic- not wearing masks, not following social distancing, not obeying healthcare guidelines should be charged with criminal offences.
In the 25 years of my career in this glorious profession, I have seen worst of the worst, including bird flu, swine flu epidemics, natural disasters and thousands of helpless bleeding patients lying around. I have met violent relatives face to face, restarted dead hearts and worked under gunpoint. I have dealt with highest and lowest social cadres of people in society. I’ve met hundreds of brilliant students and insisted that they practice in India. But for the first time ever, this pandemic has created a doubt in my mind about the mindsets and perceptions about doctors in India.
I am not sure if I should advise anyone to live an unprotected life without respect, forced by everyone’s whims and caged by society’s expectations after sacrificing so much to become a doctor. There are so many other ways to show our love for our country. Best way currently appears to be only speaking, sm-posting and shouting about one’s love for their country. You always see rich businessmen and celebrities with highest ministers and those who run various governments, but never the greatest Indian doctors. So we medicos must not be enough patriots to shine with the biggest administrators of our land. That says a lot. We should prefer other ways to show our love for India. There are anyways many non-medicos everywhere who think they can run Indian healthcare very well. Let them handle, they don’t seem to need good doctors or nurses.
Think, my beloved India.
Your Doctors and Nurses are Suffering.
Jai Hind!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Suspend All Doctors, Cancel Their Registrations…


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Have you ever spoken with a doctor, a judge, a police, minister or an an IAS officer in their office? Almost every common man has had almost a similar experience: an arrogant air of authority, hidden hints of superiority and a subtle dose of “I know better than you” whenever one tries to argue. Now we know all of the above can be wrong occasionally, at all levels. Of course, there are exceptions in all professions. In a new world which is now shedding away traditional chains of inequality and racist slavery, we Indians are probably the most reluctant to change. In performing one’s duty, no one is superior to those they serve.

A doctor needs to be patient and compassionate with the ill-behaved and arrogant, unlike police, judge or minister who will punish people for such behaviour. Additionally, far before COVID19, there have been fatal infections like MDR Tuberculosis and other viruses which have endangered and even killed doctors. The stress of this daily fear of death is difficult to explain to the idiots who argue “but you yourself chose this profession, nobody forced you, you knew all the time about these risks”.
My dear infinite stupid, yes, I chose this profession willingly, knowing the risks, but to live on and serve, not to willingly and knowingly expose myself to fatal infections. A soldier joins the military ‘to live on and fight and protect the country, not with a wish to die with enemy’s bullets’.
When a citizen tells them from the comfort of a protected home that “You already knew you could die in the army”, it is ingratitude and insult to their profession. We choose to be in this profession because our compassion and courage is higher than our fear, not because we want to die. To be honest, we do not expect many to even grasp this concept. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I have deep respect for some Judges, IAS and police officers who are geniuses, and the first mark of a genius is a humble openness to all logical argument, with parsimony of words and zero presumptions of having a superior knowledge. Even a few minutes with them enhances your life. They are calm and respectful of others. Their language is never “Suspend, Fire, Transfer or Shoot”, because they know what it takes for a genuine person to reach where they are. These geniuses are far above attention seeking, cheap media publicity, arrogant show of authority and blame-mud-slinging to cover their own mistakes, inferiority complexes, and inadequacies.

It takes longest time and a hardest curriculum with hands-on experience of years to make every single doctor. The more specialised a doctor becomes, the rarer it is to replace his experience. Still anyone can commit mistakes.
If a Judge, a police Officer, a Minister, an IAS officer is wrong, does our constitution allow any TDH in media or society to get up and threaten them with suspension? Can you imagine a nagarsewaks / municipal councillor / local politico, goons or even major/ minor officers threatening a judge, IAS officer or a commissioner with cancellation of their rank, licence or degree? Even the courts of law do not suspend anyone or strip them of their hard earned registration without giving them a complete and patient hearing.

Yet almost every TDH in almost every nook and corner in India, from temporarily elected less-schooled representatives to highly educated junior and senior administrative officers often threaten on TV channels that doctors’ registration, licence and degrees will be cancelled. This apparently gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment and also sends a wrong message to a public that these doctors must serve.

In a country where the policy makers have miserably failed for generations to create enough doctors for their population, where we still continue to have that discrepancy, suspending a doctor is like snatching away food from someone already dying of hunger. One doctor gone screws up many patients’ lives. There’s no other profession where generations are taken care of, lifelong, by one person. Yet apparently, some officer’s egos are more important than those patient’s families, health and lives.

Every day there are news of political, social reasons of suspending, threatening doctors. Deny concessions, freebies, shoe-licking, decline to compromise upon scientific principles or accept inhuman conditions for doctors, and almost every officer unleashes their administrative adrenaline pumps against the entire medical profession. Refuse to accept incorrect policies and guidelines that are against patient’s interests, and insubordination leads to losing your jobs. The most shameful and pathetic addition to this “Suspend-Crazy” admin category are some senior doctors who fail to guard the principles and juniors of their own glorious, noble profession. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Like every Judge, Police or IAS officer, even politician, every doctor has also worked very hard to earn their degree and licensing. Every Medical college and University in India is approved by the government. The Medical Council of India has been given the authority and statute to license a medical practitioner upon presenting his / her degree and following principles it has laid down. No one other than the MCI should be able to cancel the licence of a registered medical practitioner. Every case of suspension of a doctor: whether a postgraduate or a senior doctor should be referred to a separate impartial MCI committee. Even the Hon’ble courts of law usually request expert opinion before concluding about medical issues / cases. Yet, our admins and politicians from different states suspend and threaten doctor’s registration cancellation as if it was granted by them or their party or government as a favour. No. We don’t accept that. Every IMA branch in every city must stand by such victimised doctors, protest such injustice, represent the harassed doctor and protect him/ her.

There of-course are doctors who commit mistakes, like Police Officers, IAS officers, Ministers or even some Judges. All of them should be accountable and be brought to the right penalty with the same dignity as others. No one has the right to pretend that a doctor is a slave to their whims, greed and tantrums. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Hon’ble Supreme Court has very clearly stressed the fact that it is very important that doctors should be able to work and make their decisions without stress, insecurity, duress or fear. The article above intends to highlight that same purpose, especially in the light of some recent happenings. Every doctor out there is risking life only to save others, serve the nation. They do have problems, issues and insecurities that need sorting out. Please address their issues scientifically and logically, rather than inhumanly threatening them by suspension and cancellation of licences because you have no resources, funds or answers. Treat your doctors with the same compassion that you expect from them. Or, if you know better, if you want doctors to blindly follow unscientific instructions of admins and whims of politicos why make doctors? Suspend all doctors at once and do it all yourself.

India will definitely be healthier if you listen to the doctors, and don’t threaten or suspend them for trivial reasons.
Jai Hind!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Written with a sad heart that on one hand where the Hon’ble PM has asked people to respect and appreciate the efforts of doctors, nurses and other corona warriors, many are looking for reasons to corner, threaten and suspend them at the drop of a hat, sometimes just for headlines.

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A Superhero Doctor’s Dresscode
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A Doctor cannot enter home every day and start giving injections to her kids. A policewoman cannot wield a danda/ stick every day upon return, at her family members. A Judge probably cannot say “Order-order” when a child cries at home. We are not supposed to carry our professional mindset and attitude in certain places. Likewise, one cannot expect people from other professions to advise others what is beyond their domain. A doctor will never understand how complicated a politician’s or a policeman’s job is, and vice versa.
A clean and clear mind is essential for every doctor. Even a small mistake in thinking and decision making or actions may cause grievous, even fatal mistakes. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
There are many doctors who have become infected even before the pandemic with diseases like tuberculosis and hepatitis, while trying to save patients.
It is very essential that every doctor, especially junior, learns to ignore what is not a doctor’s domain. The unscientific territories of political thinking and religion or discrimination are not for the doctor, however tempting and patriotic they may be touted to be. Pressures from society and media can ruin the peace of mind so essential to make a good doctor. A doctor who falls in line with sociopolitical expectations to do something unscientific is not only dangerous to the patients, but can never be called a good doctor.
There are those in higher offices, including doctors, who cannot overcome the ‘superior-inferior’ discriminatory mindset and will advise one and all what to do, taking credit for all good and blaming others for all bad in every situation. They take for granted that a military type hierarchy works everywhere. No doubt it is extremely essential in the military, but in medicine we need brainstorming at every step, a student cannot be expected to act on patients if a senior gives a wrong instruction. One must know, challenge, ask, resolve doubt and then act. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Like a Judge in the court who cannot rush an unlawful decision even in an emergency, a Doctor should also only choose what is scientific, even in an emergency. Of course there always should be a sense of time and good. A superhero doc may choose to be a couch potato in his/ her shorts etc. at home, but when on duty, he/ she must don the special dress called pure ethical medical science.
Every Judge who gives a legally correct decision all his life, without being affected by any pressures whatsoever is indeed a superhero. A doctor who takes care of all precautions and helps every patient all the way is indeed a superhero. The heroism lies in defeating the disease and saving every patient one can, NOT in being unscientific and risking lives. Wishing you all decades of success, and millions of saved lives. Always proud of our frontline doctors and nurses!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Take me for granted

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune/ Mumbai

“Is your food more important than the patient?” asked a angry voice on the other end of the phone.

It was a Saturday night, about 11 PM, and I had already had a tough day. I had not had time for even lunch, my head was hurting already. I had known the patient for over five years, her husband wanted to “discuss something” urgently. I had requested him to call next day, honestly mentioning to him that I was on my way for dinner. That’s when he asked if food was more important than patient.

“No. Food is not important than the patient”, I said, “Please tell me.”

“Listen doc, today after dinner me and my wife had our usual walk in the society, when we met a neighbour who told us about a new herbal treatment for neurological patients. He said it worked like magic in paralysis cases and the cure was guaranteed. He had some extra bottles, but it is very costly. So we decided to call you and ask”.

“What is so urgent about it?”I asked.

“Not urgent, but we were both very excited and anxious, so we decided to call you and ask” He replied. I told him that that they were free to try anything they wanted, yet cautioned him to check the contents and then alone take any medicine.

I wasn’t angry.

The next morning, I had to visit a government office. There was a huge queue. By noon, as the queue extended, the officer got up and with a calm face went for his lunch, displaying a a sign “Lunch Hour”. I wasn’t angry.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I remembered the time when I had to visit a minister, a bigshot political leader for some issues about resident doctors. We had to repeatedly call for appointment, it was cancelled many times, then we were made to wait for hours, securitymen surrounded the elected representative, considered a public servant. Then at six he suddenly got up and left, quoting an urgent meeting. I wasn’t angry.

Because as a doctor I am perpetually alive to the fact that people take me for granted. That they will misuse compassion, avail of my private time for trivial reasons without feeling any guilt or compensating for it. That they will expect me to be sympathetic even with arrogant, abusive and blatant liars who treaten me with assault.

Because big ministers and political leaders who have a checkered past and disrepute of lying can openly make allegations that tarnishes the image of all doctors in the eyes of our “Election Elite Public”. Blanket allegations by many that accuse all doctors of indulging in malpractices and foreign tours or worse, ‘asking for women from pharma’ have become common.

Don’t these people know that thousands of most successful doctors in India are in fact women, and it is such a huge insult to those as well as the glorious careers of many thousand other medical professionals who live a life of an ideal doctor, who have trained millions of medical students successfully in that tradition?

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

More than half of those in the parliament must have been successfully delivered by a qualified doctor, and most of them must have had their children brought up/ treated by expert doctors. Most politicos must be under the treatment of some or other specialist, so that they can work well, still they have this habit of “Attention seeking” by trying to disgrace the whole profession of best qualified people of their own country.

What ingratitude!

The other day I also saw a video of some sermon in some village, making fun of doctors and specialists. The religious speaker, who could have easily qualified as a stand up comedian, and had no clue what a doctor does and why, was making cheap fun of doctors. What was more alarming was the way public was laughing and clapping, thousands of them! I wondered how many of them, their family members were treated by some doctor, and how many of them remembered it. I can understand and enjoy jokes and fun. But this was maliciously criticising an entire profession of highly educated people serving India 24/7, inspite of the hate and paranoia that surrounds them, that too by a person without any medical background or qualification! Many comedians have actually gone beyond “graceful” and “quality” comedy to cheapest low levels to criticise doctors. Hope they meet good doctors who avoid head traumas at least when their children are born!

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

You cannot and should not make fun of militarymen. That never means there cannot be anyone wrong in themilitary / army. But there’s a system to deal with that, it is not open for politicos, temporary ministers, and self proclaimed godmen / women / artists to criticise the military. The guilty must be punished, whether in any profession or service, and it should be done legally, and others should stop speaking about it. This should apply to the medical profession too. There indeed must be some doctors who are wrong, they must be dealt with, but we do not go out and blame everyone from other profession!

The most common allegation is about doctor’s handwriting. Well, if you have the guts and patience to listen to over 50 crying/ complaining people every day, while writing for them a “Scientific” list of medicines, which can save life or kill, without committing a single mistake, for decade after decade, then you are welcome for a handwriting challenge with doctors. Google the word “Scientific” and see how much of your speech is scientific before you speak abut doctors! For government hospitals, the daily patient number crosses 150 per doctor. Every prescription is a huge liability. If the chemist can read it and others cannot, who is illiterate?

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

I have seen the most artistic and best handwriting by doctors at all levels: students to specialists. Indeed, some doctors may have a bad handwriting, but in a country that has many illiterate leaders, some who never completed school or college, a society with one of the highest illiteracy rate in the world, it is such a paradox that they all have such a unity when laughing at doctors who write 40-200 pages every day, each page bringing back someone or other from suffering to relief, from death to life!

No amount of a leaders’ loud and chest thumping speech will ever save a patient from a heart attack or paralysis. No amount of comedy will take off the ventilator of a comatose patient in critical care unit. No poetry in beautiful handwriting will safely deliver a child. No political leader can stay awake in a casualty to treat a dying poor found injured on the road. All Doctors do this.

Still, I am not angry, because I have come to accept the fact that Indian society hates their most meritorious, studious children: the doctors.

Take me for granted, I am all yours.

For now.

An Indian Doctor, happy with his purpose of saving lives, reducing suffering of Patients from across the world, too busy to stand up and waste my anger on cheap attention seekers.

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune/ Mumbai

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Doughnuts, Laddoo, Anyone?

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He was so cute and plump as a child, that everyone started calling him “Laddoo”. Soon this became his name. His parents were both hyper-educated, and both owned google browsers, so they studied about parenthood in-depth every day, and decided to provide Laddoo with the best parents and upbringing. They had many fights about how to do it right, but they took care that they never ever fought or argued in presence of Laddoo. They never raised their voice in front of him. Laddoo therefore grew up thinking that any arguments, disagreements or raising of voice was so uncivil and wrong. In a calm, disciplined home, he was being given the best of parenthood as suggested by the best parenting websites in the world.

Laddoo’s parents took care that he could only eat the most fresh and clean, organic food. Laddoo was proud that he did not eat garbage like other children of his age. He often envied those who could eat spicy, oily roadside food, especially the panipuri, kachori etc., but he remembered what his mom-dad had told him about the bacteria and viruses in such dirty food. So he never ate anything like that, but he started developing anger towards those indisciplined kids who could eat and digest anything they wanted. In the midst of beautiful, clean plenty, Laddoo started growing up resentful of everything around him. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. At home though, Laddoo was always a prince. To encourage free thinking, his parents had decided never to shout at him or punish him. They chose only logical, scientific, calm explanations when he was wrong. Once a maid-servant who was cleaning their home shouted sarcastically at Laddoo: “You call yourself a grown up, can’t you keep your clothes in a little order?” Laddoo’s mom was shocked, she fired the maid immediately. “Such ignorant, stupid illiterates! These slumdwellers have no idea how to raise children!” she commented, patting Laddoo on his head.

“You are stupid, Mom, you and Dad both!” Laddoo shouted, “Why do you stay in India with such people around?” His mom was so thrilled to hear this, that she immediately WhatsApped Laddoo’s words to her friends’ group, adding “Laddoo has become so mature now, he’s speaking exactly what I think sometimes. I am so proud!”. Laddoo was pampered more. All that he wanted was being made available. If he did not get what he wanted, he would throw a tantrum, accuse his parents of cruelty, and write about his parents in his famous blog “Parents and Children’s Freedom”. He had many followers. His parents oozed with pride when they referred to their Laddoo as a “Child Celebrity Author”. His proficiency with cellphones and gadgets was their pet boast.

The thoughts that “I can be wrong, someone else can be better than me, someone else can grasp better, be more intelligent or successful” never crossed Laddoo’s mind. “What I think must be the final word” became his perpetual attitude. If at all anyone was successful in proving his mistake, Laddoo would immediately state how some fault of his parents, teachers or friends led him to commit that mistake. He freely used words that scared elders: abuse, violence, childhood trauma etc. This would usually hush up the matter, and Laddoo always kept on convincing himself and others that everything good that happened in his life was solely due to his own heroic efforts whereas everything bad that happened was the fault of someone else. His parents did not want to ever shake his self-confidence, so they never made an effort to correct him.

Once Laddoo spoke arrogantly and then argued rudely with his class teacher. She was so upset, that she scolded him in front of the class, called him stupid, and gave him a punishment of standing for an hour till the class was over. After returning home that day, Laddoo complained of severe pain in both legs and giddiness. He was taken to the best child specialist, then a neurologist. “There’s nothing major, please take him to a counsellor” they were told. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“Indian doctors really cannot understand a thing” said Laddoo’s father, and sent his reports to Laddoo’s aunt in the USA. The experts there commented that the child may have suffered a mental trauma due to the scolding and punishment by his teacher. Laddoo’s parents immediately filed a police case, wrote blogs against the school and the teacher, and then also complained to the school about the teacher with threats of legal prosecution. It was only after the teacher and the school apologised to Laddoo, that the cases were withdrawn, and his pain and giddiness improved. No teacher ever scolded Laddoo throughout his career thereafter.

Now Laddoo is heading a major company in California. His useless, old parents live in an old-age home, pretending to be happy. They believe that their beloved Laddoo does not see them regularly because of their own parenting faults. They cannot express this to others, they just tell people “He is extremely busy”. Laddoos parents also truly believe that his success in grabbing a great job is the highest achievement of their life.

Laddoo does not have any friends. He only has drink-n-game partners in luxurious clubs. His first wife left him long ago (“She was ridiculously orthodox, she wanted to grow up kids and all”). His second wife owns a company in Washington DC, they meet twice a year. Both of them tell people how they are victims of childhood traumas., especially when they fail competing with those “unruly, ridiculously happy” colleagues. They have decided never to have children so as to compensate for their childhood traumas, bullying by friends, teachers and parents etc. “We cannot afford time for such traditional lives” they mutually agree. They believe, understand and cover each-other’s lies so effectively, that they find it difficult to grasp why others around them cannot accept those.

Laddoo does not like anyone arguing, asking him questions. “Geniuses like me do not owe an explanation to anyone” he says, often freely quoting the likes of Newton, Einstein and Steve Jobs. No one really wants to interact with him now a days. Just as people avoid the spoiled brats of rich fathers, knowing that they are beyond any resurrection, they avoid Laddoo too. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

“Thay are all jealous about me, my genius, my success” Laddoo thinks. His wife agrees. Both of them spend their time at home and work blaming the whole world, showing people down, being bitter to the happy ones, and repeating the stories of how they suffered in the past, how they struggled through those imaginary problems and how heroic they have been to reach where they are now. They compliment each other like the two halves of a doughnut.

I meet such Laddoos and doughnuts (men and women) everywhere now a days. They are frequent among Doctors, Patients, Engineers, Lawyers, Businessmen etc., but also very common in big offices, major posts in the governments and managements, professors, judicial offices, ministers and even among rulers.

Do you meet any?

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Doctor Who Took Fees: One Star Review”

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

False reviews and online beratings against doctors and hospitals have become a reality. However much a doctor goes out of the way to do the best for his/ her patient, following are the reasons why negative reviews are still uploaded, some of them ridiculous:

1. Denial of false certification.

2. Recording truth on paper like addiction (smoking, alcohol, ghutka, sleep medicines etc.).

3. Mentioning preexisting illnesses which the patient / family had hidden from the insurance companies.

4. Denial to falsify diagnosis, treatment and inflating bills to claim medical insurance benefits.

5. Denial to give concessions in standard billing, consultation, visit fees.

6. Advising necessary investigations.

7. Charging for follow up visits (different doctors, specialties and hospitals have different policies, all are usually mentioned in the information prior to consultation. All follow-ups are not same). © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

8.. Waiting time: This is the saddest in India. The standard waiting times for specialists all over the world range from 30-90 minutes, sometimes longer, but it is only the Indian patients who convert this into a complaint. Sometimes earlier patients may have taken more time, asked more questions, sometimes patients cry when a sad diagnosis is conveyed, one cannot ask them to leave the room, there are incessant calls for emergencies etc. . The same traffic and weather conditions affect a doctor’s schedule too, but some are unforgiving. The fact that Indian doctors are available on usually the same day or mostly a week in spite of a heavy workload means nothing to our people, even those who have visited the Western world and witnessed that it takes months to years to get a specialist’s appointment there.

9. Behaviour of the doctor: Agreed that some doctors are indeed rude, some are in a hurry, and that is wrong. But usually doctors develop a lot of patience as they mature, dealing with all sorts of negativity continuously. Sometimes patients do offend doctors by asking illogical questions repeatedly, by challenging every word that the doctor says, or by making illogical demands. These demands include repeating long explanations about the diagnosis and treatment, requests to speak on phone with a distant relative to re-explain everything because they are too busy to come over, asking questions like “Are these medicines necessary?” etc. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

10. Unfair, illogical statements “I cannot tolerate any allopathic medicine” rules this section. What do you expect a physician to do?

11. Unfair, unrealistic expectations: Every drug has side effects, including vitamins, and these side effects are NOT the doctor’s fault. The doctor can alert the patient about common side effects, but cannot explain all side effects of every medicine, as it is impractical. Secondly, while some medicines act within seconds, some take effect over weeks to months. Those without patience who expect relief within few hours / one day usually upload angry reviews about both “no effect” and side effect” commonly.

12. Declining demands for admission. Investigations and OPD treatments are not covered by most insurance companies, so some patients demand admission even when not indicated. When refused, even if the patient was cured, the doctor still gets a negative review.

13. Google masters: Some patients bring a lot of irrelevant questions and conceptually wrong use of medical terms to the doctor’s table, and however politely one declines to waste time over such, a negative review is almost guaranteed. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

14. Habitual negative reviewers: I once found a negative review of a patient who had actually responded well to treatment and was cured. He had complained about having to pay for a follow up visit after few weeks. A small google search revealed that he had uploaded many reviews from those about railway stations to collector’s office, from autorickshaws to five star hotels, almost all negative. Unhappy man!

12. Professional Competitors- this is a new reality: doctors hiring agencies to boost their positive reviews and add negative reviews to their competition. The simple fact check of how many positive reviews over how much time reveals the truth.

Some negative reviews are indeed genuine, I have had them myself, and called and apologised to the patient, clarified my stand too. However when they were malicious, I have informed the concerned site manager and also posted a reply about reality.

How to know?

A negative review must have a legitimate name of the person writing it, and details of date and time of the visit. That way the doctor can also confirm whether it is genuine and help resolve it. A nameless review is always questionable, good or bad.

In a recent news, a National restaurant association has decided to sue people who upload negative reviews about food: just because they want more or free, just because of their mindset is negative, just because they are insatiable. Even IMA should consider suing people who upload wrong, defamatory, spiteful reviews about doctors. Even the ‘hired good reviews’ by doctors should be discouraged.

Issued in the best interests of patients and doctors.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Fairy And The Prince

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The beautiful radiant lady wheeled in the patient’s chair and wished me with a pleasant smile. Some smiles, however beautiful, have a tragic shade. I looked at the patient Rohan. A very well built fair young man in his late twenties, must have been very handsome in the past. He sat paralysed below the shoulders, one eye closed, face twisted, and a large surgical scar upon his head, partially covered by a cap. He could not speak. Any movement would cause violent tremors. He was wheelchair bound and had to be assisted even for toilet.

Rohan and Riya had married just two years ago, against the wish of their parents. Both from very affluent, but uneducated families. Both worked at the same office. In a few months after marriage, Rohan had developed high blood pressure, and was advised treatment. Unfortunately, he got carried away with some false claims about some herbal medicines shown on National Television channels and stopped the BP medicines. The obvious happened: one of the blood vessels in his brain ruptured due to high BP, and there was a huge bleeding. A Neurosurgeon had done an excellent job by taking this high-risk case on operation table in emergency, to suck out the blood clots and save his life. However, the damage was already done by then, much of his brain was damaged on one side. Riya had been caring for him since then. She looked after him just as a mother cares for her newborn.

“Doctor, we know his paralysis will not improve now. But he is brilliant, I know his brain thinks fast and accurate. Since this stroke he cannot speak. We have come with some hope for his speech. If he could just tell me what he feels, if something is bothering him, what he wants, etc., I will be very grateful” his wife said.

We started treatment. In a few days, Rohan could speak legibly, so she was very happy. Rohan’s parents were very happy too. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

One day, Riya’s father came with her. He asked her to wait outside my room for a few minutes, she reluctantly left. With folded hands and tears, he spoke: “Doctor sahab, my daughter married against our wish. I have forgiven her now. But I cannot see her spending her life like this. She was the most brilliant girl in our town, she had even rejected job offers to go to America because Rohan wanted to stay in India. You can see that she is still young and beautiful. Anyone will marry her; she is one in a million. I’m not saying this because she is my daughter, but you can see for yourself from how she cares for her husband. She has become his attendant now. What is her fault? How can a father see his daughter wasting away her youth like this? They have no family life. I cannot even speak to her about this. Her mother tried but Riya refused to speak. She speaks very highly of you, so I have come with this hope. Please help us”.

This was very difficult, but a duty too. If not me, who could even attempt to resolve this?

“Let us ask her about her thoughts” I told her father and requested him not to react when she spoke. We called her in. I told her in short how her father felt. She sat straight. Her face became distorted and she wept silently. Her father kept on patting her while weeping himself.

“Papa, when Rohan could recently speak after so many months, the first thing he told me was to leave him and marry someone else. He refused to eat his medicines, saying that I should leave him. Then I promised him that I will leave him after two years. That was a lie. I know he will die if I leave. I could feel his love even when he could not speak, that’s something more precious to me than whatever you think I will get if I marry someone else. Till the day he had this bleeding in the brain, he made sure I was best taken care of. He never had his food before me. How can I spend even one happy moment with anyone else knowing that Rohan is suffering in this same world? Would you be proud of me if I did that? Did you teach me to be so selfish?” She broke down. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Her father did not say anything. They left.

In a few weeks, Rohan followed up again with Riya. He is now gradually learning to operate a computer. He plans to start his own online business. Riya is helping him do that, while continuing to work. They are now planning for a child soon.

This fairy I met was more beautiful than any other in the dreamy stories I had heard all through my childhood. I am glad that I am a witness to this divine fairytale.

I know even of another couple, where the girl had developed a paralysis in her college days. I had counselled her and her boyfriend about future uncertainties and a possibility of a compromised married life, given her illness. “That’s not the most important thing for us” he had said. They married. Today, about 8 years since then, they have a healthy, happy kid, and he still cares for her as much, now when she is in a wheelchair. This knight lives in a rented house, runs a small grocery store, rides a bicycle, wears the simplest of clothes, yet has a heart that would put to shame many a real princes!

My world as a doctor is full of beautiful fairies and knights, named caretakers. It is because of them that thousands of patients are surviving with dignity today. Medical care is so incomplete without them! I remember my favourite author Richard Bach’s words from “The Bridge Across Forever”: “Princesses, Knights, Enchantments and Dragons, Mystery and Adventure… not only are they here and now, they’re all that EVER lived on earth!” How true!! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

Among the stories of sadness and suffering, most doctors also come across best of the human hearts and minds, highest forms of love and care. Such patients and relatives reinforce our own trust and faith in the ability of human efforts to heal. Thanks to what I learn from my patients, my gratitude for being a doctor is endless!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dedicated to all caretakers, young and old, who silently sacrifice much of their life caring for their loved ones.

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Soulmates, Military Grade!

Group Captain Y. S. Marwa and his wife Mrs. Gurkirat Kaur have bravely stood with each other through thick and thin. They are both above 85. They care for each other extremely delicately. Many couples do, but the noticeable difference here is the willingness, involvement and sense of duty with which they both do it. While he is the picture perfect gentleman, she compliments his personality beautifully too.

Just a few weeks ago, Gp. Capt. Marwa unfortunately had a severe heart attack. Even in the ICU, his mind was preoccupied with only one thought: “I must get better fast to take care of her”. Thanks to the efforts of doctors at the military hospital in Pune and his own willpower, he recovered completely and joined back his chosen duty.

“We had taken a vow when we got married, I am just keeping my word” he says with a handsome smile. A military man to the core, he walks straight in the face of every adversity and defeats it with his monumental determination. In a world that is stuck in superficial, glittery meanings of ‘Love’, this couple personifies the very essence of the word ‘Soulmates’.

They don’t forget to bless me every time we meet, and my day turns sunny whenever they visit. I wish them both a many grand decades of love and togetherness, health and happiness.

Dr. Rajas Deshpande