Checking violence against lifesavers

The headline of a recent news report read: “55 to 60% doctors at government hospitals face violence… this has become an epidemic”.

India is a country with 1.3 billion people and it is impossible for the government to provide free healthcare to all without significant increase in the healthcare spending and budget allocation. The health system in India is complicated with several other systems in place catering for various sections of the society from acute health care to preventive and public health.

It is very surprising that there is no single educational platform that explains to the general public and everyone at large on the categories of hospitals that exist in India and how they operate. The flat blame falls on the doctors and their contribution to the inefficient healthcare system.

In India, there are several neigh­bourhood nursing homes which are generally managed by a single doctor; they are small facilities catering to the neighbourhood population at a reasonable cost for common ailments. The government doesn’t give anything free to these nursing homes.

There are medical colleges and their associated hospitals, approved by the Medical Council of India, where a lot of poor patients benefit from “free” treatment for most disorders. Such medical colleges also make money through admissions of students and other post graduates.

Then there are overcrowded government hospitals where the general masses seek free treatment and some also benefit from several schemes such as Ayushman Bharat. Beyond all this, there are charitable hospitals, wherein the deserving population can get either a free or subsidised treatment. Generally, these institutions get tax benefits and some free land also.

Lastly, there are corporate hospitals where people “pay” for the services. The level of care here varies depending on what you pay for. Corporate hospitals do not get any funding or tax breaks by the government and they need to sustain themselves through the revenue they raise from their operations.

Corporate hospitals are branded into one single category by the government with stringent protocols. A general belief has also been created that doctors in private hospitals are not invested in patient care and safety. This doesn’t explain the number of hours of work invested by doctors year on year through training and practice to strive for excellence. When you take these into account, the money that the doctors make is much less than what is earned through any other profession.

Doctors have become a soft target for the inefficient health system with poor or no public health or preventive health. People need to be educated on the how doctors generally practice and operate in India. Most of the charitable hospitals have some kind of affiliation and that trend is unlikely to change in the near future. In a majority of corporate hospitals – owned and run by corporates — the administration decides what should and should not be done, and doctors generally have no say in it either.

Over the years, it has been reported several times that more than 75% of doctors face verbal or physical abuse inside hospital premises. Patient partnership is changing medical practice across the world. In a land where swamis and soothsayers make more television appearances than doctors, society needs a strong medical role model.

Hospitals need to improve their services and bring them on a par with global platforms and ensure an adequate number of doctors and para medical staff is employed to handle the rush of patients and long waiting hours.

There is immense responsibility of patients and, most importantly, the society at large to prevent any kind of violence against doctors. Disputes between patients and hospitals or doctors are not to be sorted out through violence. In a civilised society, there are avenues of dispute redressal which should be used.

Modern medicine is neither cheap nor 100% effective in curing the disease in all cases. There should be an understanding that vandalism and violence in a hospital or clinic or against the medical fraternity is a criminal offence and our society should have low tolerance towards such heinous acts.

(The writer is Founder Chairman &Neonatologist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals)

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Checking violence against lifesavers

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