Sunday, April 22, 2012

Corporatisation of Health Care is Killing

The corporatisation of health care is a relatively recent phenomenon in India. The Indian tradition, still existing in most Ayurvedic establishments is not to use the knowledge for one's own benefit (as a result of which most ayurvedic physicians do not charge for using their knowledge to prescribe medicines, but only for the medicines they give). As a result of health care institutions becoming part of companies, the main aim has become to make money at an increasing rate. The result is that the doctors have shifted their responsibility from the care of the patients to the care of the share holders. If one is willing to listen, one can hear a number of stories of how hospitals have made a mess of the lives of their patients through wrong diagnosis or wrong treatment, sometimes leading to severe problems for the patient concerned. Let me narrate a few cases that I came to hear about. Readers are requested to write about their own experiences or that of their near or dear ones.

Take the case of Madhu (name changed) for example. He had a simple fall when his foot slipped on loose sand on the road as he tried to stop his scooter on the side when another vehicle came from the other side. As a result of the fall, he dislocated his left elbow. He immediately went to a well-known hospital nearby, where they took an X-ray, set the bones and put his hand in a cast. The cast was removed after one month and they took another X-ray. Madhu continued to have difficulty in bending his arm. So he went to the local C.V.N. Kalari, where the gurukkal (master) examined his arm and declared that the bones were not set properly. So he had to undergo one more treatment (of course a painful one) for more than a month to make his arm all right. Not only did this cause him a lot of difficulty in his life, it also prevented him driving his bus, thus denying him income. The hospital refused to give him copies of his X-ray images saying that they require them for their records. But an X-ray image he took elsewhere clearly showed that his bones were not set properly. Thus, there was evidence that the hospital had done a bad job and I insisted that he files a complaint in court. This was entrusted with a lawyer, but, for some reasons, the lawyer did not pursue the case.

Or take the case of Anjali (name changed). She works in an IT- related firm in Bangalore. She and her husband had gone to France on a pleasure trip, where, she got an injury in her leg while boarding a train. Since she had earlier had hurt her leg, she thought that it was just that getting reactivated and waited to come back to India to see a doctor. It was to a prominent private hospital in Bengaluru (Bangalore) that she went. Three doctors examined her and instructed her to go there regularly for physiotherapy. She actually asked them whether they didn't have to take an X-ray to find out what was wrong. But they insisted that it was obvious and no X-ray was needed. After a week of physiotherapy, the pain in her leg became so severe that she could not even stand up, let alone go to the hospital, fortunately, as it turned out. Finally, she was forced to see an Ayurvedic physician whom many of her friends had been visiting. After just holding her wrist for a minute, he pointed to a place on her leg and asked her whether the pain was not at that point, and asked her how come she had kept it for so many days and not gone for treatment earlier. When she told him what had happened, his response was shocking and interesting at the same time! Shocking because he said, "Don't they have eyes? It is obvious that what it needed was total rest, and they have made you exercise that part!" Of course, he cured the pain with some oils, but it took her months to recover and she had to suffer a lot of pain. Wait, there is something more interesting! After her leg was cured, she went back to the hospital to ask why they asked her to do physiotherapy when she actually needed rest. When she met the doctor, his response was quite interesting! He asked why she had not been going for physiotherapy. When she gave some excuse, he told her to get admitted immediately, and told her that she would never walk again if she didn't! No questions about how her leg was or no regret for the mistake!

All that, perhaps, fade in the light of the experience of Kalpana (name changed) who went to a prominent hospital in Bengaluru (Bangalore) because she found blood in her urine। She also had the problem that urine used to leak slowly, wetting her panties. The doctors examined her and decided on a surgery, which she agreed to without even getting a second opinion. The surgery was done, but she continued to have difficulties with urination. The doctors then recommended a second surgery, which also she did without asking a second opinion. But her problems were only starting. After the second surgery, the doctors found that they had made a mistake, and they wanted a third surgery to correct the mistake, which also was done. They apparently, had closed the natural outlet from the bladder and created a new one on the side. Since the body was not used to this new opening, urine tended to accummulate in the bladder, creating a lot of discomfort. Now the doctors said that she had to retrain her body to use the new opening in the bladder, which would take time. In the meanwhile, they discovered that there had been some problem with their diagnosis and that none of the surgeries was actually required. Now they say that she either has to undergo one more surgery or do self-catherterisation for the rest of her life. She is, naturally, unwilling to undergo one more surgery, and is planning to take the hospital to court. But of course, litigation is not an easy thing anywhere, and especially so when the opponent is a powerful corporate body that can take the fight right up to the highest court and also hire the best lawyers in the country. Meanwhile, her Ayurvedic physician has been saying that hers was only a case of severe urinary tract infection, and that it could have been cured with drugs!
If you or your near or dear ones have had a similar experience, please write about it as a comment. I will keep adding such cases as and when I come across them.

1 comment:

Sasi said...

Kalpana tells me in a personal email, "I had all 3 surgeries at one shot, on the same day." Sorry for the mistake. I had written the blog mostly from memory. Perhaps, there are such mistakes in the replorts about the other two cases too. I request the concerned individuals to make corrections as comments to this blog or to write to me so that I can point out the mistakes myself.