A timely warning
The tongue-lashing that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee gave to the proprietors of the corporate hospitals of the city on Wednesday and the pathetic way they fumbled and faltered, stammered and stuttered in answering her specific charges, said it all. The warning came not a day too soon and brought relief to those unfortunate people who have to go to these veritable abattoirs called ‘private hospitals’ knowing fully well that even if they recover as patients they will become paupers. Hospitals are supposed to be institutions and doctors are supposed to be sympathetic men whose job is to treat patients with a human touch and help them recover as quickly and as inexpensively as possible. Instead, hospitals and doctors have now become money-spinning machines. Fleecing the patients and making fast bucks seem to be the sole motive with which they work.
They resort to overbilling, forcing patients to go in for unnecessary and expensive tests, and that too repeatedly, refuse to give details of treatment given and take recourse to many other malpractices like detaining the body of a patient who has died till his bill is settled by his relatives. The first question when a patient goes to a private hospital is asked is whether he has mediclaim or not. The cost of the treatment will depend on the answer. If the patient does have a mediclaim the bill will be highly inflated. If he does not have, the bill will be lower. Any patient with some complications will be routinely sent to the ICU or ventilation – whether he needs it or not. For the same disease, each time a patient goes to a different hospital, he is asked to do the same pathological tests over and over again. The reason is simple. They bring to the doctor/hospital fat commissions from the laboratories where the tests are done.
The Chief Minister’s announcement that the State Government is going to bring a Health Regulatory Commission Bill in the coming session of the State Assembly and amending the Clinical Establishment Act has been welcomed by all – including leaders of opposition parties. These steps were long overdue. But what is more necessary is to increase the number of government hospitals with the latest healthcare facilities. Patients will always prefer to go to a well-equipped government hospital where the doctors and the supporting staff work with a missionary zeal rather than go to a predatory private hospital or nursing home to be milked dry.