Tag Archives: Spirituality

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

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The Last Bullet For Indian Private Healthcare


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jai Hind

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Disoriented


© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Mumbai Diary- 3 To The Silent Patriots

Mumbai Diary- 3

To The Silent Patriots

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Mumbai / Pune

Usually I stay in Mumbai on Sunday nights to be able to attend the OPD at Lilavati Hospital on Monday. Strolling by the sea is usually a pleasant addition to a Sunday evening. However, this time there were huge crowds as Christmas was only three days away, and people thronged to have a glimpse and seek blessings of their beloved Mount Mary. I decided to use the evening to visit my favourite Udyan Ganesh Temple at the Shivaji park.

I had my car but didn’t want to drive in Mumbai traffic that day, so I requested for a rental car. As the car came up, a perfectly dressed chauffeur in a white hat got down swiftly and held open the door, politely wishing me. He must be in his sixties. “I am Abdul, Sir” he introduced himself. I introduced myself too.

“Can you please drive me to Shivaji park?. and on the way I also want to visit the Mount Mary for a minute.” I requested.

“Sure Sir” he said.

In a few minutes, as I returned after praying at the Church, we headed towards Shivaji park. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.

We chatted, he opened up very well, a rarity in a world full of cellphone robots. His father had retired with many honours from Mumbai Police.

“Those were the days, Docsaab! We stayed in a small society, there were three Hindu and a Christian family around us. Yet there was no awareness about religion, any child went and ate in any home. There was also no hesitation in anyone scolding any child for being naughty .. we were like a single big family. Nowadays one has to think a lot before speaking even to one’s own kids!”. I agreed with him.

I met my favourite deity at the Shivaji Park and returned. As we drove back, we crossed a building belonging to an ultra-rich famous businessman. The intention of the owner to show extremely gaudy luxury and glittery affluence in every inch of that construction was truly manifest. Passing by that building, we witnessed the state police guarding its gates.

Mr. Abdul spoke in a tone with hidden bitterness: “Every glass, every brick of this building is cursed, Doctor saab. This man has cheated and looted millions to earn this kind of money. There’s nothing against anyone being rich, I mean who doesn’t like to have a lot of money? But it should not be made by sucking people’s blood”.

In a few minutes his tone normalised. His smile returned. “Docsaab, I have worked for this company belonging to Mr. Ratan Tata Sahab for over 20 years. No one has ever seen any show-off of affluence or power from the Tata family. Once I was posted as a night-duty chauffeur at Mr. Tata’s bungalow. Sitting in my car, I dozed off by midnight At about 3 AM, I heard someone knocking on my car window. I woke up with a shock: it was Mr Ratan Tata, holding his own bag. I came out of the car shaking and apologising. He said to me: “Why do you apologise? Everyone gets sleepy at night. Not a mistake. In fact I am sorry I had to wake you up, but I must reach the airport as soon as possible. Will you be able to drive, or are you feeling sleepy? I don’t mind if you sleep in the back seat, I will drive the car to the airport and wake you up there. You can bring back the car in the morning”.

Pausing to clear his emotional throat, Mr. Abdul said “I felt that it was like meeting God. Since that day I never felt like working for anyone else. People usually show off and become mannerless when they get even little power or money, they insult and mistreat their employees, dependants and staff. But not Mr. Tata, he has the biggest heart I have known”.

That this should happen with me on the very day of Mr. Ratan Tata’s birthday was such a divine coincidence for me! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. It provoked a different line of thought.

Soldiers, Police, Doctors, and millions of workers, labourers, watchmen work day and nightshifts, silently performing their duty while also serving the nation with their blood and sweat. Somehow people tend to think that these “true patriots” do not have a right to sleep well, eat well, and spend some good time with their families. Many think that sacrificing sleep, hunger and family time comes naturally as a duty when someone chooses such a career. As if it is a crime for a soldier or policeman to feel hungry, or a doctor to need adequate sleep. As if the children of these professionals do not need a father or a mother at home! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. Our society thinks that, it is okay for them to sacrifise, suffer, even die in the line of duty. That is hardly a sign of an evolved, civilised or humane society!

Most people in our society get to sleep eight hours, have three square meals a day, then watch TV / entertainment, and in the remaining leisure some of them scream about Patriotism, share posts of emotional speeches about loving one’s country. There’s no better patriotism than actually working hard. Those who shout slogans and bellow speeches actually do nothing good for any country.

Through this post I would like to thank the millions of silent nation lovers: men and women from all religions, from all parts of my Great India, who show their love for their nation in their work, in their perfect execution of duty and service. May this New Year bring you immense inner happiness, exuberant health and realisation of the beauty of life.

Of Course, Happy Birthday Mr. Ratan Tata, if at all this post reaches you someday! You are one of the most respected icons in this world.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune/ Mumbai

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Can Anyone Solve The Mystery of Atmaram’s Courtroom Death?

Can Anyone Solve The Mystery of Atmaram’s Courtroom Death?

©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A hungry poor man named Atmaram went to a big hotel, had a nice big meal, and told he had no money to pay. He was beaten up and handed over to the police. He was released after a warning and a slap.

Next day he filled up petrol in his bike, and said he couldn’t pay. He was again beaten up, handed over to the police. Then he went to the medical shop, bought medicines and mineral water, ate the medicine, drank water from the bottle, and again said he couldn’t pay. He was now jailed for a week.

Next week his house was damaged by heavy rains, so he went and requested to be allowed to sleep in the house of the chief minister. He was arrested again, thrashed up.

As angry Atmaram shouted at the police, he was beaten up by them, another crime was added to his offences. In the court, Atmaram insulted the lawyers and judges and accused them of accepting bribes and charging too much. The judge punished him extra for his behaviour. Atmaram was angry and threw his shoe at the judge. His punishment was extended.

“You must respect the authority “ the court said.

“But I am poor, I need free food and petrol and medicines. I need sympathy too” Atmaram argued.

“You should have begged and applied for favours and eaten in places that provide charity meals. Petrol, however essential, has the same price for everyone. You can sleep on the footpath, and above all, you are not allowed rudeness and violence because you are poor and needy” The court said.©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

When released from the jail, Atmaram drank a lot of desi alcohol, had an accident and fractured many bones. He went to the best private hospital, got operated and refused to pay his bills that crossed one lac rupees. When the hospital insisted, the operating doctors were beaten up by Atmaran’s relatives, the hospital was vandalised, the police arrested the doctor who saved Atmaram’s life, the government closed down the hospital, while the media and the society kept villainising the entire medical profession.

The headlines next day reported the sympathy expressed uniformly by wag addicted tongues: some said the entire profession was tainted, some blamed the greed of the doctors, even some doctors desperate for attention shed crocodile tears about the ethics in this profession. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

In the courtroom, during the trial, Atmaram sat facing the doctor, still heavily bandaged.

The hon’ble judge, kind but surrounded by security, told the doctor accused of negligence and malpractice in the court: “You as a doctor carry more responsibility for ethical behaviour upon your shoulders. You should never turn away the poor”.

The doctor, defending himself, asked “but Milord, doesn’t our constitution insist on equality? Why do you yourself or ministers get security but not the doctor? Why isn’t everyone supposed to stick to ethics in every profession including politics, police and judiciary? Why are others exempt? How do you explain beating up of doctors while also saying that the society treated them like gods?”.

There were no answers. The kind court asked if the doctor had to say anything else in his own defence.

The doctor said

“Yes Milord, but the real answers will hurt:

Jealousy against medical professionals across society and many other professions is a reality. Why else will anyone who couldn’t qualify to become a doctor try and teach the qualified doctors what they should do?”©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“A culture of exploitation of non-votebank groups

and a complete failure of government healthcare with no one accepting responsibility is well known to everyone, but even judges have no courage to suo motu question this and correct it, even when they see the poor dying”. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“In a country with never ending poverty, how much free can a healthcare facility provide? For how long? This is already forcing closure of hospitals and exodus of good doctors out of the country.”©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Milord, can you assure that every doctor will get his/ her fees as per his service to every patient, and if the patient can’t pay, that much charge will be exempted from the income tax of that doctor? How else do you except a doctor to meet his needs and dreams? Just because there are millions of poor patients, is the doctor’s life and hard work taken for granted? If there has to be financial sacrifice, why not have everyone contribute to it by creating a national health tax fund for treatment of poor patients? Why healthcare is subsidised only at the cost of a doctor?”

Just at this point, Atmaram, who sat in front of the judge, collapsed unconscious, almost blue black.

The shocked judge requested the doctor to examine him.

“He is no more” said the doctor.

“What could have happened ?” asked the kind but sweating judge.

The doctor told the court about three possible reasons. Two of them were scientific and medical: a sudden cardiac event or a large blood clot in the lungs common after fractures and trauma.

The third non-medical, unscientific cause made the Judge seriously ponder.©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Will this court be now closed down, Milord? Will your efficiency be questioned, will you allow the relatives to attack you and understand their sad situation at the cost of your murder?”

“I understand what you mean” said the kind judge.

Needless to say, the doctor was released without a blame.

Can anyone please solve the mystery of the third non medical, unscientific possible cause of Atmaram’s death?

(C) Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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The Colour Of Blessings

The Colour Of Blessings

© Dr Rajas Deshpande

Carefully calculating the dose and mixing it with the intravenous fluid with precision, I told the kind old lady: “I am starting the medicine drip now. If you feel anything unpleasant, please tell me.”

Through her pain, she smiled in reply. Her son, my lecturer Dr. SK, stood beside us and reassured her too. He had to leave for the OPD, there already was a rush today. “Please take care of her and call me if you feel anything is wrong” he said and left.

Dr. SK’s mom was advised chemotherapy of a cancer. It was quite difficult to calculate its doses and prepare the right concentration for the intravenous drip. Just a month ago, my guide Dr. Pradeep (PY) Muley had taught me how to accurately prepare and administer it, so when Dr. SK’s mom was admitted, he requested me to do it for her too.

The drip started. After a few hours, I noticed that her urine bag needed emptying. The ‘mausi’ supposed to do it was already out for some work. Any resident doctor in India naturally replaces whoever is absent. So I wore gloves, requested a bucket from the nurse, and emptied the urobag into it. Just as I carried the bucket with urine towards the ward bathrooms, Dr. SK returned, and offered to carry it himself, but I told him it was okay and went on to keep the bucket near the bathroom where the ‘mausi’ would later clean it. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

Once the drip was over, Dr. SK invited me for a tea at a small stall outside the campus. He appeared disturbed. He said awkwardly: “Listen, please don’t misunderstand, but when I saw you carrying my mother’s urine in the bucket, I was amazed. You are a Brahmin, right? When you were away, my mom even scolded me why I allowed you to do it, she felt it was embarrassing, as we hail from the Bahujan community. I am myself a leader of our association, as you already know”.

I knew it, to be honest. His was a feared name in most circles.He was a kindly but aggressive leader of their community, but always ready to help anyone from any caste or religion, to stand by anyone oppressed, especially from the poor and discriminated backgrounds.

“I didn’t think of it Sir! She is a patient, besides that she’s your mother, and I am your student, it is my duty to do whatever is necessary. Otherwise too, my parents have always insisted that I never entertain any such differences”. I replied. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

“That’s okay, but I admit my prejudice about you has changed,” he said. “If you ever face any trouble, consider me your elder brother and let me know if I can do anything for you”. What an honest, courageous admission! Unless every Indian who thinks he / she is superior or different than any other Indian actually faces the hateful racist in the West who ill-treats them both as “browns or blacks”, they will never understand the pain of discrimination!

As fate would have it, in a few months, I had an argument with a professor about some posting. The professor then called me and said “So long as I am an examiner, don’t expect to pass your MD exams.”

I was quite worried. My parents were waiting for me to finish PG and finally start life near them, I already had a few months old son, and our financial status wasn’t robust. I could not afford to waste six months. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

I went to Dr. SK. He asked all details. Then he came with me to the threatening professor. He first asked me to apologise to the professor for having argued, which I did. Then he told the professor: “Rajas is my younger brother. Please don’t threaten him ever. Pass him if he deserves, fail him if he performs poor. But don’t fail him if he performs well. I will ask other examiners”.

The professor then told me that he had threatened me “in a fit of rage”, and it was all over.

With the grace of God, good teachers and hard work, I did pass my MD in first attempt. When I went to touch his feet, Dr. SK took me to his mom, who showered her loving blessings upon me once again, and gifted me a Hundred rupee note from her secret pouch. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

Like most other students, I’ve had friends from all social folds at all times in school and colleges. I had excellent relations with the leaders of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Association, and twice in my life they have jumped in to help me in my fight against injustice when everyone else had refused. I love the most fierce weapon of all that Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar himself carried: the fountain pen!

No amount of fights will ever resolve any problems between any two communities, the only way forward is to respectfully walk together and find solutions. Fortunately, no doctor, even in India, thinks about any patient in the terms of their religion or caste. (© Dr Rajas Deshpande). Just like the Judge in the court premises, humanity is the single supreme authority in any medical premises. Blood or heart, brain or breathing are not exclusive to any religion or community. Just like the bigger brain, a bigger heart is also the sign of evolution.

I so much wish that the black clouds of disharmony between different communities are forever gone. The only hope is that our students can open any doors and break any walls, so long as they do not grow up into egoistic stiffs. © Dr Rajas Deshpande

I am proud to belong to the medical cult of those who never entertain any discrimination. A patient’s blessing has no coloured flags attached! Even outside my profession, I deeply believe that the very God I pray exists in every single human being I meet. If at all anyone asks me, I am happy to say that:

My religion, my caste and my duty as a doctor are all one: Humanity first!

© Dr Rajas Deshpande

Neurologist

Pune

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The God Pendulum

The God Pendulum
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Dr. Aman handed over his car to the valet, and went to the rooftop restaurant, his favourite rendezvous. The captain soon brought over his favourite coffee pot and some starters.

‘The look of love’ by Kenny G started playing. It is impossible not to feel inner peace and romance while listening to that piece. Dr. Aman started to think. Yes. He had much in life to sort out.

Sunday late afternoon. The only afternoon to relax if lucky. A moment of peace so precious, that even family duties take a back seat, the mind is so tired of the heavy duty medical practice. Heavy duty because mistakes are not allowed, and seldom forgiven. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is difficult to relax at home too. The society security staff, maids, some ‘sudden’ old friends from god-knows-what-stage-of past will want home consultation, and it is rude for a doctor to say no to any health queries by anyone, anytime, anywhere. Cellphones have become the worst health hazards, more so for the doctors.

He had two patients under his care in the hospital, so he decided not to switch off the cellphone, he was responsible should they have any problem in the hospital.

The phone of course rang.

“Sir, casualty. One GP has referred for you an old lady with convulsions. She is quite bad” the medical CR appeared disturbed.

“On my way” said Dr. Aman, paid his bills, and reached the hospital. On the way he kept on giving intructions to the junior doctor.

The 65 year old lady had had fever for a week, not taken to the doctor, treated by her non-medico daughter and son with home remedies. On the seventh day, yesterday, she had had many vomitings and became unconscious. The local GP gave her some basic treatment, and sent her to the city as she had no facility to treat such a critical case. Since that morning she had also had convulsions.

She was already intubated in the critical care unit when Dr. Aman reached. CT scan of her brain was normal. Her sodium levels turned out to be dangerously low. The management requires skilful vigilance, and it was already started. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Her daughter and son were waiting outside the ICU. Dr. Aman updated them about her condition.

The angry son asked “Why is her sodium low? Is it because of the medicines given by the doctor yesterday? I it the side effect of those medicines?”

Dr. Aman had now acquired the skills to tame his anger. He told that it was because of the vomitings, and that they should have taken her to the doctor earlier when she had fever.

The daughter started with an emotional appeal, speaking loudly “Do whatever you want, doctor, please save my mother. You are like God to us. Nothing should happen to her. We are ready to do anything. Please save her”.

“We are trying our best. Let’s hope she recovers” Dr. Aman said the legally correct thing.

“So when will she become normal?” asked the patient’s son.

“It is not predictable, we need to reassess her after convulsions stop and sodium levels are corrected” Dr. Aman replied. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“So why don’t you correct her sodium levels right now?” asked the son, as looking at the surrounding relatives as if he was suggesting the obvious that the doctor had missed.

“If sodium is corrected faster than a certain rate, she will develop paralysis, it can also be permanent” Dr. Aman replied, and added “Look, boss, if you do not have trust in our treatment and skills, you can please shift her to any other hospital you wish.”

“No. no doctor. We trust you. You are like God for us. We brought her here because this hospital is big and famous, and has all facilities” said the daughter. The son just kept on looking angrily at the doctors.

On the third day, the lady became conscious. On the fourth day, she was off the ventilator.

“When will she be shifted out?” the daughter asked.

“After a day of observation in the ICU” said the junior doctor.

“Why is it necessary to be in ICU now?” asked the son.

“Because she still has fluctuating oxygen levels, and needs continuous observation” replied Dr. Aman. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Why cannot you observe her in the ward room? The ICU is so costly” the angry son kept muttering.

On the fifth day they requested discharge, as the patient was walking. Her weakness was still fluctuating, and her BP was low. She was discharged on request.

Within an hour, a crowd surrounded Dr. Aman.

“What is this? Is this any bill? Are you doctor or a thief?” the daughter started shouting, to a full audience of the waiting patients.

“Listen. You knew these charges when she was admitted. I do not own this hospital. The rates are standard, and so are the criteria for free or concessional patients. Please speak to the billing department.” Dr. Aman kept his tone low still. He did not want to point at the two costly cellphones that the son flaunted.

They did not qualify for free treatment as per the govt. norms.

“Doctor your fees is also there in the bill. Atleast cut that off. We cannot afford.” The son insisted. The waiting crowd surrounding them stared at the face of Dr. Aman. “Will the doctor be human and help this poor?” was the mob expression.

To save time, Dr. Aman asked the billing clerk to scratch off all his consultation fees. Saved time is more precious than earned money for the doctor.

While leaving, the daughter looked angrily at Dr. Aman and said “We never thought that doctors will be so rude and commercial. Curse upon such doctors who extract money from the poor”.

A doctor must digest all kinds. All patients who had witnessed the scene were doubtful and upset. They knew nothing about the patient and what had actually happened. They had just witnessed the last scene.

Just five days later, the whole family returned in panic. The lady had developed many convulsions as she had stopped the medicines after going home. Now she was unconscious because of the low oxygen that had damaged her brain. This could take a long time. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The daughter started “You are God, Doctor, please save her” etc. etc.

Dr. Aman gave instructions about the basic management to the emergency team, then turned to the daughter and said “I am sorry. I am busy with other patients, please take her to another doctor or hospital. I cannot attend her”.

“Can you refuse a patient?” asked the son, as if he had taken a special training from Mr. Ram Jethmalani.

“Yes, I can” said Dr. Aman “No one can expect a doctor to take correct decisions under duress, threats or abuse, and if I think there’s risk to my life or reputation because of ill behaved, hostile relatives, I can even refuse emergencies”.

There was no guilt in his mind when he started the car. He had become a doctor to serve the sick and suffering. Those who did not value him, his work and his profession did not deserve his service. His dignity was as important as his humanity, he would not sacrifice it for those who didn’t deserve it.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The Sweetest Pinnacle Of Life

The Sweetest Pinnacle Of Life© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

To many students who are lost in their search for the right aims and goals in life, who trusted me enough to ask that question, I have suggested that they imagine what they actually want in their life at its Pinnacle.

Success, riches, fame, awards and accolades, a legacy, achievements are all good to show and leave behind oneself. The truth is far more than that. Love and care, affection and respect in one’s evening of life is what everyone deserves, but few are fortunate to achieve. For what good is s life that spends its aged years in desolation, isolation, despair of an uncaring, loveless family one has sacrificed much to bring up well?

Hollow words of “show- love” and “pretend care” are commonly employed everywhere, especially among the rich, educated and culture-claiming pundits of humanity.

One experience I have is worth sharing: that the poorest of the poor, like the farmer in the wheelchair here, are cared for with far more genuine love and affection than many. This family collected alms and help to get him to India, and never asked for any concessions, free treatment etc., always saying they were willing to do anything for the happiness and health of this grandpa. His son standing by his side is an illiterate farmer, but is caring for his father . quoting proudly “He brought me up!”. There is no smell of “I am obliging my parent” in his behaviour.

I have met hundreds of Arabic Muslim patients who care for their parents, sons and daughters equally well, willing and with total faith in the treating doctor. It does not change with their financial status. They insist on the parents staying with them, ask questions about their food, exercise, medicines, happiness and comply strictly with the given instructions.

They naturally do not know the words “Culture, Rights, Medicolegal, Elderly care, Nursing Homes, Mercy Killing etc.”. Rarely have I seen them unemotionally “okay” with a bad diagnosis of a parent.

This old man, in my personal opinion, is one of the luckiest human beings upon earth!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Thank you, Mr. Naser Ali, Mr. Abdul Hakim Mohd. Al Malahi, Mr. Majdi Jamil Aiselwi, Mr. Ahmed Anwar Aqlan!

Made In Heaven

jadhavs

If I ask him about HIS health complaints, he points at her and says “Ask her, I don’t know”.

Mr. Hanuman Jadhav brings his wife Mrs. Laxmibai Jadhav regularly for follow ups, keeps all her records filed date-wise, brings all the medicines and asks me to do the best for her, adding “Don’t worry about the expenses, we can buy for her any medicine you want”. He has no source of earning, but his children provide for them.

“She has looked after me, my home and grown up my kids. I am nothing without her” says this retired foreman of an electric company. He spent his life roaming all over Maharashtra with his family, wherever the govt. transferred him. His old wrist watch and simple clothes reveal his humble state of life’s affairs. He is minimally educated, does not know the words “Culture” or “Gentleman”, but is better cultured and more of a Gentleman than most who know those words!

He patiently listens without interrupting till she finishes all her questions. He does not behave as if he is her ‘Master’. Then at the end she asks (rather orders) me to examine him. If I ask him about his complaints, he points at her and says “Ask her, I don’t know”. Then she blushes and lists all his complaints, and he usually agrees. The only argument they have is about the other one “Not eating well enough”.

In the end she always says “My illness is not important. He must stay healthy at all costs. He has worked hard to keep us all well”. As they leave, she does not forget to remind me that I am like a son for them.

They do not ever complain about each other, not even as a joke with hidden shades of truth!

We rarely see this respect and equality for one’s own spouse, even among the best educated. These two have not read any literature, nor seen any movies about women’s lib. Since the last five years that I know them, they have been one outstanding example of genuine, heavenly love only dreamt by those in the ambition industry. Even the most educated and elite seldom treat their spouses as equal.

These two are still so shy, they urged that I stand between them for the pic!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

A Policeman’s Tears

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“She was found unconscious and naked lying on the road. The baby was near her, moving when we found her, now she also looks unconscious” said the police constable. “Actually I had my civil dress in my jeep, I covered both with my clothes and got them here. Most likely an orphan roadside beggar”.

It was early morning, I had gone to the casualty for a call as a medicine resident, and was chatting with the CMO when this police constable had rushed in the mother and the baby, probably less than a year old. He and his colleague completed the formalities and left. The CMO was alone, so I stayed on to assist.

The lady had high grade fever and some bruises all over her body, only one on the thigh deep enough that it bled. She also had a contusion upon the head. Needless to say, unclean and unkempt, visibly quite weak and poorly fed body. There was a traditional tattoo on her forearm that said “Seeta” in distorted devnagari script. The baby was dehydrated and had fever too, with only minor contusions.

“Sending her to female ward, and the baby to paediatric” said the CMO. We completed the police information and Medicolegal form, the nurses had started the IV line for the lady. I accompanied the baby to the pediatric ward, handed her over to the resident doctor friend on duty and went to the female ward to attend the other admissions. Basic medicines for fever and head injury were started for Seeta. There was no CT scan facility in the hospital. Blood tests were sent.

In absence of relatives, it’s the interns, resident doctors and nurses who attend to the necessities of such patients. Administration mocks everyone sympathetic and compassionate to such patients, be it a government, private or corporate set up. My professor advised some more blood tests. Some tests were not available in the govt. hospital, we had to send them outside. As we had just received the stipend, money was not a big problem.

Next evening I went to the pediatric ward to find out what was happening with the baby.
“She has had convulsions”, the resident colleague told me. We have loaded her with anticonvulsants, but she still has fever. Dr. Jain madam (new lecturer in paediatrics) has advised lumbar puncture, but there’s the consent problem”.
I went to talk to the lecturer, she was all insulting. “Don’t teach me what to do. We will send a request to the dean, and if he allows, then the resident will do the lumbar puncture” she said, “By the way, what’s your interest in this baby? Why don’t you mind your own business? I have heard about you.. you are in the student’s union na? Don’t throw your weight around me.” She said.

The dean consented to our request, and a lumbar puncture was done. The baby had probable tuberculous meningoencephalitis (infection of the brain and its coverings). Antituberculous medicines were started.

The comments of the pediatric lecturer made me extremely angry. Most of her resident doctors hated her attitude too. Those remarks soon spread and various sick, exaggerated and vulgar jokes about me caring for that orphan baby made rounds among my colleagues. But one good thing about wanting to do good is the shameless pride and courage that comes ingrained with it.

My colleague Dr. Madhu stood by me. She often reminded me: “There are five percent good people in the world, and 95 percent bad, Einstein has said, but it is the five percent good who take the world forward, they represent human race”. That has always pumped me up against all the mockery that I ever faced for being “too sensitive and compassionate to be sane”.

The best support for the poor and helpless always comes from the poor and helpless. The pompous, actionless “blah blah” of advising others to be more kind and compassionate is usually the trademark of those who themselves rarely help anyone. The mamas and mausis (wardboys and helpers) of the ward came together to attend Seeta during their duty.

The pediatric resident told us on the third day that the baby’s health had gone bad, and she was unlikely to survive. Dr. Madhu stopped smiling. “At least can we shift the baby near her mom?” we discussed. It was of course not possible.

Dr. Oak (real name), one of our ophthalmology genius professors, learnt about this. He came over and told us in his royal tones, to tap him anytime for any help. He also left some money with us.

On the fourth day, the lady started having convulsions too. We ran around, trying to arrange whatever the professor suggested. She was gradually sinking. Tuberculosis neglected and untreated is one of the most cruel diseases. It takes over ten days for the action of Tb medicines to kick in.

On the fifth day, the baby passed away in the morning, and the lady shortly after. That coincidence was less tragic than their trolleys being rolled into the mortuary together.

“What happens now?” we asked the mortuary in charge.
“They will be cremated as orphan, unclaimed bodies after the post mortem” he told.

In a world of billions, ruled by religious, powerful and rich, a young mother and a baby girl would be cremated as orphans! We told the mortuary assistant to please keep us posted, and came out. Of course we could not sleep.

Next day we took special permission and went to attend their cremation.
On the way, we bought some flowers, a tiny dress for the girl and a saree for her mom, probably the first new clothes ever for either of them. Dr. Madhu had already brought a few bangles, a necklace and two bindis with her.

Dr. Madhu was sobbing as we returned. The rowdy looking policeman with us also wiped his eyes. He dropped us back to the medical college in his jeep.

He said in a heavy voice as we parted:
“Doctor, we see all the worst things in the society. We meet criminals day and night. But when such young girls and babies die, I feel like shooting everyone who didn’t come out to help them. People just talk, nobody helps. God bless you. You have what it takes to be a doctor. Don’t ever change.”

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

P.S.
Years later, I read about a divine human being from Chennai, one Mr. S Sreedhar, who collects unclaimed dead bodies from various hospitals, and performs decent and respectful last rites for them. Planning to meet and touch his feet one day.
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