Tag Archives: Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Neurologist, Pune.

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

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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 Extinction of Precious: A Medical Horror Story Happening Right Now!

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The Extinction of Precious:
A Medical Horror Story Happening Right Now!
©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Sir, we have come from Konkan”, said the father, “to seek your advice and blessings . My son has passed the medical postgraduate exams with national rank 30. He wants to decide which branch he should choose”.

I congratulated the genius. Passing medical entrances with high merit requires great talent. It does not earn the glamour, claps and appreciation of stage and limelight, for we live in a society that only worships looks, muscles, bhashanbazi, financial success and sports (sorry, one sport. Even if someone wins a world gold in any other sport than cricket, they go home in an auto rickshaw when they return to India!).

Speaking with the boy, I realised that he was very sensitive, compassionate and had an excellent logic and reasoning. Besides having a calm bearing, he was also a hard worker. A perfect blend for becoming a great physician or a surgeon, in a world that is fast losing able clinicians. I suggested him to prefer Internal medicine.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

They looked awkwardly towards each other. The boy garnered some courage to speak.

“Sir, I saw our family doctor being beaten up by a local politician, his clinic was ruined. He was humiliated in the worst language in front of his wife and children, and instead of protecting him, other patients in his hospital kept on recording videos of the incident, which later became viral. He left, we don’t know where he went. I cannot ever think of directly dealing with patients now. I want to choose a non- clinical or para-clinical branch.”

I appealed to the father: “Your son has a great potential and matching talent to become a good clinician, we desperately need many more. It is not necessary that he practices in your own town or even in India. The whole world needs good doctors. Please think about this”.

The father, a simple teacher from a primary school, thought for a prolonged moment. His eyes reddened up.
“I don’t know, Sir. When he said he wanted to become a doctor, his mother and I always thought that he will become a saviour, running around saving people’s lives. We were never interested in only money. But the day that we saw our own doctor being beaten up by a crowd and the local politician, we realised how helpless a doctor’s life is. We knew our doctor for over 25 years, he was like a God for many in our town. All he did in 25 years became a zero in a few minutes, thanks to a hooligan politico and his crowd. We don’t want our son to ever face that. If we had a daughter in his place, we wouldn’t even have made her a doctor, women as doctors suffer a lot more trouble and get no returns, sometimes even from their family. And this is our only son, we want him to stay in India near us.”

Somehow I didn’t want to give up convincing him, he was an ideal candidate for becoming an excellent clinician.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande “Think of the future. Hopefully there will be better laws, he can also consider working in bigger, safer hospitals if he is scared”.

“What would you advise your own son if you were in my place, Sir?” asked the father.

He had bombed my mind.
I was trained by parents and teachers to always do good, be compassionate and kind. My kids had a potential to become great doctors coming from this background. I worry a lot about the extremely critical condition of deteriorating healthcare standards and reducing number of good clinicians that is destined to cause a havoc in a few years. Still, honestly, I did not wish upon my children the insecurities and threats I face. I don’t want them to live under the perpetual fear of being vandalised, defamed, tortured by over-expectation and punished by committees made up of politicians and medically inexperienced judicial experts. I won’t want their lives, work hours and remunerations to be dictated by a corrupt bunch living for votes of free mongers.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It would be hypocrisy to advise someone else what I wouldn’t choose for myself. That’s how a doctor makes the best possible decision. With a heavy heart, I advised him what I always advised my children:

“I agree. Please choose what suits your heart most, what gives you fearless happiness in your work and also leaves you with some time for yourself and your family, ensures a good income and is not dependent upon jealous people’s expectations of what you should do and for what price. You have so many options for social service other than becoming a clinician. I am sure you will stay a good human being all your life.” I suggested him two para-clinical branches that offer good scope.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The world indeed will have to suffer the gradual extinction of good clinicians. We need many more excellent doctors in para clinical and non clinical areas too, but the face of the profession is the clinician, and we certainly, desperately need many thousand more. It is a fact that in spite of increasing number of doctors, patients still die travelling in an ambulance to reach good healthcare far away from most homes in India. Many federal orphans who cannot even afford government healthcare die at home.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The father asked his son to touch my feet. As he did so, the melancholy of my own advice bit my heart. I couldn’t let down the flag of my noble profession.

“Listen, dear. I am speaking this against my own convictions. I am struggling. Think about becoming a good clinician and practising in a safe country, take your parents with you. I will be happy whatever you finally decide, but not everyone has the ability and talent to become a good doctor, it is rarest of the rare traits.”© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

They left. So did a part of my hope for the future of good healthcare.

When the next couple walked in with an infant baby in their hands, I looked at the smiling baby, and forced a smile. She didn’t know it yet, but I had just bought a precious gift for her.

©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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“Is The Diagnosis Wrong, Doctor?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Cult of Good Blood: Superhero Medical Students

The Cult of Good Blood:
Superhero Medical Students
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

He grew up selling vegetables and fruits grown by his mother. He went door to door and in the village market to sell those. He also walked for two miles every day to catch a bus to a school over 20 miles away. He then enrolled in a private class that waived off his fees, because he had a passion: He desperately wanted to become a doctor.

Atul Dhakne, son of a school teacher Mr. Nivruttirao Dhakne and farmer Mrs. Mandabai Dhakne, with his hard work and merit, got admission in the prestigious B.J. Medical College in Pune.

But he wasn’t satisfied. “What about those like me who are from the poor rural background, those who have no access to good classes and education, but want to become doctors?” he worried.

Good Blood speaks, whichever soul it flows in. Young medical students of different origins, studying with him, decided to resolve this. Ketan, son of a lawyer Mr. Avinash Deshmukh (who mostly handles cases for the non-affording,) wanted to do charity like his father. Farooque Faras, whose father raised a family in one small room, was burning with the desire to give. Many others joined in (names below), and the Cult of Good Blood multiplied. They all wanted to uplift the deserving.

“Lift For Upliftment” was born, formed by the superheroes among medical students.

They printed posters and went to almost all junior colleges in Pune, appealing students from poor backgrounds to join their free tuitions / classes, to prepare for the CET /NEET. In the first round, over 40 students joined. After the medical college hours, Atul and his friends took turns to teach these poor students, give them notes, set question papers, conduct exams, assess and counsel for improvement. All expenses were borne from their own puny pocket-money.

There was no fixed place for the class. One local bakery owner, Mr. Dinesh Konde, decided to help these students. He planned the logistics and took them to the corporator Mr. Avinash Shinde, who asked for only one thing in return of his help: commitment to continue this good work. The Cult agreed whole-heartedly. With him, they approached Mrs. Meenakshi Raut, Asst. Director in the education department in Pune, who helped them get two classrooms in a Municipal school after the school hours. The classes thus became regular, every day, from 6-9 PM.

The cult lacked stationery, the huge backup of notes and question paper sets for 40 students, so they approached Mr. Sanjeevkumar Sonavne from Latur, who runs many educational institutes, helps poor students, and even pays the fees of some who cannot afford college. Mr. Shelke and Dr. Harish from Sassoon Hospitals also joined hands to help.

The results were impressive: from the first such batch, 6 students qualified for MBBS, 3 for BDS, 11 for BAMS and 2 for BHMS.

No one had earned anything, but Good Blood flowed forward. Many medical students from subsequent batches came forward to teach free, imparting their fresh acquired knowledge and skills to those who could otherwise have no access to it.

There is no discrimination while accepting junior college students for their class. They have two batches now with 60 students in each. They have also started weekend classes for poor students preparing for NEET in the extremely backward area of Maharashtra, named Melghat. These medical students go to Melghat with their own expenses, teach the rural junior college students over the weekend, and return to attend the tough schedules of medical college again!

“I learned helping others from my mother. We don’t earn anything, but we learn something precious every day” tells Atul, who has now passed MBBS. Ketan Deshmukh, Abhiraj Matre and Farooque Faras help him supervise the group. Their endless enthusiasm only reminded me of how much more I can do. I came to know of this group “LFU” during the recent “Quest Medical Academy” event arranged by Dr. Sushant Shinde.

They are naturally, perpetually short of funds.
I am not rich, but I won’t feel right about myself if I didn’t contribute. They graciously accepted.

When these students came to meet me today, I offered them dinner at a good restaurant (knowing that they stay in hostels). Farooque said “Sir, we will rather use that money to print some more question paper sets”. Farooque’s father has stopped all celebrations in the family, and sends all the money he can, from his one small room home, for the torch of humanity that his son carries forward!

When they asked for an advice, I had but one small request for them: that a Doctor should be completely free of all political and religious influence at work, in teaching, and especially while treating a patient. They assured me that “Lift For Upliftment” has decided to never be affiliated to a political or religious organization, keeping humanity as their highest ideal.

There is no better lamp than the one which carries the light from soul to soul. There is no better definition of humanity than holding hands of those who need it most. I feel very happy today, that I could contribute to this beautiful, divine cause.

Long Live the Cult Of Good Blood, and may we all find it in abundance within ourselves!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

The group “LFU” also includes: Esha Agarwal, Shivkumar Thorat, Satyender, Tanvi Modi, Mayank Tripathi, Nikhil Nagpal, Sitanshu, Arvind Kumar, Nagesh Pimpre, all from the B. J. Medical College Pune.

PS: My heartfelt appeal to all medical students and doctors to contribute by starting similar activity in your region, by teaching poor students who want to become doctors, by joining this group and / or by donating for this cause.

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Homoglobin

Homoglobin

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“How much is your experience, doc? Have you ever seen any cases like this?” she asked. She was accompanying her father who had Parkinson’s Disease, quite common all over the world.

Many hilarious and abrasive retorts came to my mind:

‘Do you ask such questions about the pilot or driver when you board a plane or bus? , Do you ask such questions when someone absolutely inexperienced is made a minister of important portfolios like health, defence, environment etc.?’ If you can have faith in them, why cannot you trust your qualified doctor?© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

However, being on the doctor’s side of the table, I could not allow myself losing patience so easily. I chose the most professional answer, forcing a smile: “I am practicing since 25 years, over 15 as a Neurologist, and I have seen over two lac thirty thousand patients till now. Almost every Neurologist sees an average of 30-40 patients per day”.

When the rural / illiterate populace asks these questions innocently, I am never offended, but if it is the literate suspicious kind who treat manners and etiquette as an ‘optional’ part of communicating with the doctor, I feel just like when someone spills my ice-cream. It is difficult to connect with a paranoid literate, however hard one tries.

Apparently satisfied with my experience, she shot her next google bullet: “Can this happen because of his low Homoglobin? I read it on a blog.”

“The correct term is Hemoglobin”, I told her, “and its low level does not cause Parkinson’s”.

It was over 45 minutes since they entered, I had replied to every point on the question paper that they had prepared from a Googlesearch syllabus. The next patient must be already angry now, I thought.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“How can you be so sure that this is Parkinson’s Disease? What’s the proof?” Fired she.

“There are many diseases where there are no proofs of diagnosis, some can be proven, most are based upon the doctor’s clinical judgement. Sometimes quite costly tests are required to prove what is an obvious diagnosis. You are welcome to obtain a second opinion” I replied.

“Can his Parkinson’s be the side effect of the knee surgery done eight years ago?” She.

“No” me.

I now issued a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order for my gasping patience.

Most doctors know the simplified versions of how to explain the patient in layman language about the common diseases/ disorders. Every type of case requires a lot of reading and actual handling / treating to gain insights about that condition, something that is impossible to explain exactly to the patient / relative, especially because they do not know the basic concepts, organs, their functions etc. What even the brilliant medical students take repeated readings and many case studies to understand well, cannot be simplified enough to explain to all and sundry.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Add to this: every patient even with the same diagnosis is different, needs an individualised approach, and no google guidelines or statistics can replace the doctor’s wisdom in making a treatment decision especially in complicated cases. To make the most accurate decision and to explain it is a doctor’s duty, but the understanding quotient of the patient or relative cannot be the doctor’s responsibility. Medicine is so complicated, that even the most experienced doctor in the world cannot say he knows everything about any single medical condition.

The more you attempt to educate some literates, the deeper in a quicksand you enter. Because they are not satisfied with the fact that the doctor is making the best effort to educate, but look upon this as an opportunity to question the knowledge and wisdom of the very expert whose opinion they are there to seek!

They try and catch words and cross question as if it is a legal argument.

“You said swelling: show me where is the swelling?” most common question.

“Well, it is called Inflammation in medical language, there is no accurate translation for that word even in Hindi, hence we commonly use the word swelling. It may not be a visible swelling”.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is not always the fault of doctor’s ability to communicate, it is often the over-expectation that one can understand everything. It is laughable that even those some whose life is a mess, who are failures in their own chosen paths try and argue about medical diagnosis and decisions with highly qualified doctors.

However profound a doctor I may think I am, there are so many things I do not understand: politics, finances, many people’s behaviour, mathematics, government, etc., and I am ok without ith not understanding most. However I do not have the audacity to ask an expert in these fields / professor / CA whether he / she has enough experience.

But with a doctor, these liberties are becoming rampant now.

“I think he has convulsions because of his spondylosis” one halfpant+crocs combo tried to punch a new hole in my knowledge recently.

“Let me decide that” was all I replied, rather than explaining how he was beyond wrong.

The shorter you keep it, the sweeter it remains. I would rather save and use my time for those worried, panicked patients who have enough faith in my abilities, who understand mutual respect, and who will have at least this insight: that the doctor knows best how to treat patients.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Of course I am aware that there are some doctors too, who initiate rude conversations, do not respect simple etiquettes, and are quite difficult to connect to. Most patients even when offended by rude doctors, kindly choose not to react although they carry home a bitter feeling. Every medical student, every doctor must be taught in the earliest parts of internship about the code of etiquette and mutual respect while dealing with any patient, and only then expect the patient to follow it too.

Coming back to this lady, I wrapped up the session by telling them to follow up after a month.

“Can he continue to take his three large pegs of rum every night? He cannot sleep otherwise” she asked.

“In my 25 years of practice, I haven’t met anyone whose health improved with alcohol. Do please google that.” I gave her the dose she had begged for.

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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Doctor’s Fees: A Taboo Topic

Doctor’s Fees: A Taboo Topic
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
A famous industrialist from Pune recently visited my OPD. My Boss called me on phone and told me to waive off the fees, as he was a close friend of my Boss. The industrialist was not only well behaved, but well-read too. He had a complicated problem, had seen Neurologists etc. in India and UK. He asked many questions, and I was happy to have been able to reply to most. The consultation lasted over 45 minutes. He went out, and was told by the receptionist that his fees was waived off. He knocked my door, came back in, and placed three thousand rupees on my table. My usual fees is half that.
“Doc, I don’t believe in taking advantage. You gave me all the time I needed, and I have paid far more to the foreign doctors for a fraction of that time” he said.
 
Just a few days prior, a European patient from Mumbai had visited with her Indian in-laws, and after a detailed consultation, when they went out and paid the usual fees of 1500 INR, she messaged me: that this was far lower for the service they received. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Two days ago, on Saturday night at 9 PM, one lady rushed in without appointment, an engineer now working in Pune. Quite lavish in her get up and paraphernalia, she told me she had recently delivered a baby in the USA and then returned to India. After we finished the consultation that lasted over 30 minutes, and included many questions and explanations about her “minor” neurological problem, about justification of diagnosis, every medicine, about lactation, and about her prior medical consultations, I was happy that I had answered all her questions, and was able to treat her without any tests. Then she said: “And yes, doc, your fees is too high. Most doctors in my area charge less than that. I want concession”.
 
Earlier it was quite embarrassing for me to discuss money with patients. I felt it was below my dignity to have to talk about money, and humiliating to have to explain my fees. When I decided what I charged, it was after a prolonged thought process, and awareness of Indian healthcare scenario and socioeconomic conditions. While being available for genuinely poor patients, I did not want to resort to any backdoor incomes, and also wanted to give every patient the best of my skill acquired over 15 years of education, and enough time. There are clean doctors, far more senior than me, in my branch, who know this well and charge a lot more as consultation fees than I do (some over 5000 INR for a single consult), for they know their own worth. But there also are few who for their own reasons continue to charge far lesser, some with a noble intention (usually at the fag end of their career), some with alternative plans. It is a personal preference of the doctor, especially specialist. A correct diagnosis and honest /right advise is becoming rare and rare, what with the quality of medical education and an admixture of streams, which aim at the fast, cheap, objective and basic rather than specialized, subjective and accurate. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
In absence of any comparable example, (medical service is not comparable to any other, but to quote an example that most should understand), I have to mention this: when one buys land, home, good food or technology, one pays differently at different places, for different brands. No one argues about the rates of foreign cellphones or jewelry, even about cinema tickets, but the most important service of all: health, is considered a bargainable, perpetually low cost charity. Basic and emergency healthcare doesn’t mean attached super-technology, five star rooms and washrooms and air conditioning, best qualified staff and ancillary services. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Used to this question very frequently, I told this lady that my fees was the same as that of most super-specialists in larger cities, that it was based upon qualification, experience, skill and time spent. She wouldn’t listen, and refused to pay. I told her she could avail of the free OPD meant for poor patients if she had a BPL card or if she was a farmer. “I can afford, I am not poor. But I want concession, because some doctors in my area charge only XXX”she said. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
A senior doctor had advised me during the beginning of my practice: “Concentrate on the affordability of the middle class. Manage your time with the patient according to their affordability, people are rarely willing to pay the doctor. If your consultation fees is high, you will turn off many patients, because even the rich opt for the cheapest possible healthcare, including the doctor”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Of course I did not want to discriminate. But over a period of time I realized that most of the forced free categories keep on repeatedly visiting various specialists / hospitals (a free category patient visits over three consultants for every medical issue) because it is free/ low cost, this is a frustrating scenario. Even the affording class visits many specialists for the same problem because the doctor’s fees is too ‘affordable’.
 
A doctor must always be kind and compassionate, but in India, he / she also needs to be practical to avoid being exploited. Compare to the availability of a free food service at your home for the poor. Check out for yourself how many misuse it, and how often. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Various pathies and specialties have a different fees structure, and people must be educated that all doctors cannot charge the same. A surgeon or physician with more skill, experience, expertise and good outcomes is definitely entitled to charge more than his peers. After all, what is a few thousand rupees when one’s health is concerned? When filing suits against doctors who commit mistakes, people claim in crores, a fact that must be accounted for when the doctor charges his / her fees.
 
“Your fees has increased” said a patient, who has paid the same fees for last 8 years. When I asked him to name any commodity whose price hasn’t increased in last eight years, he said “But you are a doctor”. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
Among all the inflations happening everywhere, it is only the doctor’s fees that mostly remains unchanged for years. There are excellent charity institutes with great healthcare services , also many government hospitals, but most people want a “Premium / Priority” healthcare service at their lowest rates, refusing to stand in a queue at such hospitals. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
The cut throat competition among hospitals to match society’s low cost healthcare expectations has resulted in a nightmare: most of the permanent staff being hired is low-salary, low qualification overworked, and exploited, many of the consumables used are of a questionable quality. This reflects worst in most critical care units and some surgical units. Very few will understand the true depth of this horrible tragedy.
 
While all cut-practice and other malpractices must end, while every doctor must compassionately aim at resolving the health problem that the patient trusts him / her with, and satisfy the patient as much as possible, it is also necessary that people understand that good healthcare will come at a higher cost. No doctor should refuse emergency /basic treatment to a patient who really cannot afford. Other than this, “Cheaper Doctors are the kindest and the best” is a devastating superstition we must eradicate.
 
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
 
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An Ideal Patient

 

An Ideal Patient
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

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“My health is my domain, you are a member on my health team. You have a part to play, and I have a responsibility to imbibe your advice with complete trust, along with that of the other specialists I see. There are so many things in my life that are beyond your control: what I eat, what I do, how much I work or sleep or exercise, how I react, my mentation, and even my spirituality. All these affect my health, and I must assume the responsibility for that. My illness if not your fault.
Rajas, we meet like the tips of two pyramids, with few specific issues to resolve. We cannot know the entire pyramid, and it is unnecessary too. I have strong faith about why we should have met even as a doctor and a patient, I believe destiny has a purpose. The meeting between a doctor and a patient, not only you and me, can be so much beyond only a professional medical consultation: just so long as we have enough trust and shoulder our respective responsibilities well”.

These are the precious words of Ms. Prema Camp.

Once she came to my OPD, and asked me why I looked stressed. I told her my mom was critically ill, admitted at the same hospital. Mom was conscious then, but was quite shocked due to her recent worsening, As a son, I had limitations in counseling mom. Ms. Camp took my permission, went to the room where mom was admitted, and chatted with her a few hours, relaxing her with gentle anecdotes.

My patient and now a friend from last 5 years, Ms. Prema Camp shuttles between USA and India frequently. She maintains a meticulous record of all her health related documents, follows all advice to the last dot, enquires about every doubt that crops up, reads extensively still only asks relevant questions, and manages her side of the responsibility perfectly: researching and finding out the right type of food for herself, following strict and disciplined schedules of diet and exercise, and avoiding all unnecessary medicines. She has a phenomenal memory, but she has never used it to relate any bad experiences from her past, in spite of having many. If at all there’s something negative about her past, she mentions only the good that invariably came out of it. Age does not affect her at all, and she independently manages everything without any assistance (although she has highly placed daughters in the USA who care for her). Her blogs have an enviable readership too!

Every time she comes over, I learn something precious, especially about the effect of mind upon health and life. She brings me books and films related to health, hoping that it will help other patients too.
I do not know if it is entirely due to her growing up with the freedom of thought in USA, the spiritual pursuits which brought her to India, or both, but I find something quite rare in her: the ability to pursue a thought or an idea fearlessly to its conclusion, and to then honestly accept that conclusion. Irrespective of whether the world has yet grown up to it or not. Irrespective also of personal likes and dislikes.

Although I always stick to the professional etiquettes with a poker face, there are patients who crossover to this side of me and become friends. Then the barter system of payment via goodwill and information exchange works best, money becomes so redundant! Needless to say, she has never once misused the facility to call or message in spite of having my personal cell.

When I apologized for being late today, she smiled and said “Oh I enjoyed every bit of waiting here, I could get some time to read”.
I wish I keep learning these things from her!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Beyond Fear: The Lady Who Defeated Brain Cancer

 

Beyond Fear: The Lady Who Defeated Brain Cancer

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© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

About a year ago, a young man came with the MRI reports of his 64 year old mother, 
Mrs. Vijayalakshmi, who was then in Bijapur. She had developed paralysis on the right side of her body, could not speak, and was losing her consciousness fast.

The MRI looked bad, a big tumour was compressing much of the left side of her brain. It looked cancerous, and needed immediate surgery as a life saving option. Otherwise the tumor could damage the heart / blood pressure and respiratory control centres in the lower part of her brain, that risked life. The situation could turn into an emergency anytime now.

The family was devastated. They brought her to Pune. She was sinking fast. Required investigations were done, and we explained the facts to the family. The surgery could risk life or also cause permanent disability, including permanent loss of speech.

Her husband, Mr. Venkat Babladi was always by her side, with his hands folded, and had only one thing always to say every time any doctor visited her: “Please save her doctor, do everything possible”.

She was operated. Her husband, son Mr. Anand Babladi, and his wife all stayed in the hospital, taking turns to attend her. The tumor was sent for analysis.

On the third day, the report brought the bad news: it was a type of cancer called primary central nervous system lymphoma. These tumors have a high death risk, with or without treatment, especially after the age of 60.

“Tell us doctor, where can we do the best treatment for her? We want to do everything” her husband and family kept on telling us. She was still in critical care, but had started now to speak a few words.

Our oncologist Dr. Minish Jain and his assistant Dr. Yuvraj Rangam took over, and started high dose chemotherapy. She developed many complications, some related to the medicines, but her family always stood firm. Every day, her husband sat by her, holding her hand, and telling her that she was going to recover, that he will ensure all was well. Her son and daughter in law arranged for all expenses and logistics, not by staying away and sending money, but by attending her every day after their respective jobs. After few days she was discharged with advice to continue chemotherapy.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Vijayalakshmi had a fall while walking at home, and fractured her hip, she had to be operated. Her chemotherapy had to be stopped. It was resumed after she recovered from the fracture. Then in few weeks, radiation therapy was started. As a rare complication, she developed life threatening brain swelling, and had to be shifted to critical care unit. She lost her speech again. Her husband, who was now on the verge of an emotional collapse, met us outside her room and with tearful eyes, asked only one question daily: “She will be ok na, doctor?”

Medical treatment is mostly standard all over the world, but the affection and care of one’s family is not. Hundreds of doctors treat thousands of such patients, many patients get cured of cancers and other dreadful diseases, a simple statistic that is never made public by those who perpetually talk against medical professionals. Equally unrecognised is the fact that a caring family makes a huge difference in the patient’s recovery, this has become very rare now.

After a year, we repeated her scans recently, and told her the ultimate medical good news: she had defeated brain cancer! Her scans did not show any tumor activity at all. She comes smiling to the OPD now, her husband holds her hand on one side, and son on another.

The most beautiful gift she gave me this time is that she learned two new Hindi words specially for me, because everytime I saw her I asked her how she was, and could not understand her answer.
This time, her husband poked her, then she smiled and said “Achcha hai”.

Those two words were the winning roar of a simple, middleclass woman against a dreadful killer disease!

© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

PS: Thank you, Babladi family for the kind permission to share facts.

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Profit and Loss

Profit and Loss
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Case 1:
45 year old man. Many weeks of tiredness, then three days of fever, quack treatment. Developed convulsions, admitted in coma. Blood sugars over 500. The long term past sugar index is very high, suggesting he has had untreated diabetes for months. After stabilizing patient in few minutes, I brief the relatives about critical condition.
His brother asks: Why is his sugar so high? He never had sugar. Is it because of any of the medicines you are giving?
I explain them that he has had high sugars for long, the tests say so. Also that we are giving him medicines to control sugar.
The wife says: “We don’t know all that. I think some medicines have made him unconscious”.
When he was discharged recovered, they fought about the bills saying that wrong medicines had caused delay in recovery. They gave negative feedback because the bills were not reduced to their quotes. “We were duped, we lost so much money” the son kept alleging aloud. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Case 2:
Old man, 82. Lung cancer, under radiation. Two episodes of paralysis, diabetes, blood pressure, now has drowsiness since Tuesday. His son and daughter in law come to opd on Saturday evening. The old man needed immediate admission and MRI. I tell them so.
“What is your diagnosis?”, “Exactly why is he drowsy?” “Why admission??” “Exactly what treatment?” “What will be effect of the treatment?” and many such screwing questions (sometimes I wanna ask back: when will you exactly pee next?) later, they went home. In the interest of the life of the old man, I chose not to lose patience.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

They come back two days later, he had become unconscious.
“Why, doctor, why? He was walking till Sunday” cried the daughter, angrily asking us. “Why can’t you make him conscious? It’s been two days”.
Not only the arrogant tone, but the open distrust was offensive. “What is the exact reason of his unconsciousness?” “When exactly will he become conscious?” “Exactly blah blah?” asked the son, as if he was a Judge, and the doctors were criminals.
I wanted to tell them exactly what they were and where they belonged, but refrained. Patient first.
The treatment was on. Three days later, the old man opened eyes. “He has always had a strong will power. We knew he would recover” told his daughter to us.
Upon discharge, they wrote very bad reviews because the bills were not reduced to their expectation.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Both came for follow up later.
In both the cases, a few years ago, I would have made an effort to spend more time, compromise self respect and continue treating them. Not now. Especially when peacock-fame decision makers decide about the fates of specialist doctors. Now, I tell them to please follow up with whichever doctor they can trust.

What about the probable income from such patients? Let me quote a dialogue that only Mr. Amitabh Bachchan could have delivered, from a film ‘Trishul’ that influenced me much since my college days:
“Zindagi mein kuchh baatein faayde aur nuksaan se upar hoti hain, lekin ye baat kuchh log nahi samajhte” (Some things in life are above profit or loss, but some people don’t understand that)”.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande