Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hospital Blues

An old lady in my apartment block got seriously burnt, a few days ago. She has a habit of lighting a candle after she had switched off all the lights in the house to guide her to her bedroom. The accident happened due to this quirk of hers. Her family rushed her to a hospital immediately only to be told she can't be admitted. The second and third hospital they took her to reacted in the same way. Finally, a fourth hospital they approached agreed reluctantly. The reason given by the hospitals that refused was that the victim was too old and likely to die on them.
The victim's family is affluent and they were willing to foot the expenses of the treatment. So you can well imagine what happens to the poor and deprived in this country.

It has been the turn of healthcare to be corporatized in this country in the last couple of decades. You have all these swanky looking hospitals in every city worth its salt that are run on the philosophy of greed. I was once asked to design a performance management form for the doctors of one such hospital. One measure they wanted was how many tests the doctor being assessed recommended for a patient who came to the hospital seeking treatment. The logic being the hospital had imported a number of expensive machines and needed to recover the cost of equipments. It didn't matter whether the patient needed the test or not.

Dr. Devi Shetty, one of the few doctors in this country who is honest and runs a hospital in Bangalore that caters to the underprivileged has protested strongly against the government's decision to impose the burden of service tax on hospitals. He is calling it the 'misery tax' and with reason. It's not the hospitals but the patients who will bear this cost. The client pays the service tax.

The origin of taxes lies in the protection money our ancestors had to pay to bandits to be left alone. With this government, the wheel has turned a full circle. They insist on adding salt to our wounds.

No comments:

Post a Comment