Posts Tagged ‘Government Hospitals’

Whosoever coined the term ‘patient’ in the distant past was indeed blessed patient 1with some degree of prescience. He could foresee that the poor soul will have to earn this exalted status in life the hard way. He would need to patiently await his turn in long serpentine queues at hospitals and at doctor’s clinics. He would have to be patient with his bank balance when it starts depleting the moment he is examined by a doctor. He would need to be patient and suffer the ignonimity of undergoing all the tests prescribed. He would then again have to patiently wait to report back the results to the doctor concerned. Nerves of chilled steel would be required to consume all the medications written out illegibly on a piece of paper. His reserves of patience would once again be called upon to mitigate his suffering when side effects of the drugs start tormenting him.

A singular challenge faced by patients of all hues, sizes and shapes these days is that of continuity. Family doctors happen to be a tribe which has become almost extinct by now. Gone are the days when a personal rapport with the family doctor could work wonders, or when the emphasis used to be more on physical examination and the symptoms of the patient rather than on excessive medical tests.

The ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’

In a dichotomous health delivery market like that of India, we have the multitudes of ‘have-nots’ who struggle to make two ends meet. For them, a challenge on the health front is not the very first priority to be handled. The question of survival itself comes first. When the body simply revolts and there are no options left, they turn to government-run centres and hospitals and make do with whatever facilities they are able to access.

Not so for the well-heeled ones. They have the means to avail the servicespatient 2 offered by swank hospitals run by the private sector. Recourse to fancy insurance schemes becomes helpful. In any case, since health is held to be more important than wealth, a slice of the latter getting lost to restore the former is seldom bemoaned. On the contrary, the massive cost incurred on a hospital stay gets worn on their slick sleeves, much like a proud soldier would display his medals earned on the fronts, and comes in pretty handy for an uplifting ego boost.

They get to pick and choose. Word of mouth often helps. Brand recognition helps. When an emergency comes up, distance becomes the determining factor.

Upon entering such institutions, the patient is spoilt for choice. Options for accommodation include air-conditioned special rooms, deluxe air-conditioned rooms and even super deluxe suites. He is then put on an assembly line and subjected to awe-inspiring medical diagnostics. The fear of the unknown on part of the patient helps the corporate body to fulfil its obligations towards its shareholders. When a surgery is deemed necessary, the kind cruelty of a surgeon’s knife also ends up drilling a gaping hole in the patient’s pocket. Admittedly, the patient has the satisfaction of having being in safe hands and possibly also getting the necessary relief.

Sandwiched between these two layers of society are the not-so-well-heeled. They detest the dinghy corridors and the surging crowds in public institutions. They place their trust in the private outfits, get exploited financially, and end up missing the objective healthcare advice dished out by medical practitioners in government clinics and hospitals.

A Supermarket approach to getting healed

Those who are well-heeled and suffer from life style diseases have even a wider patient 3choice available to them. They are like true customers in a market economy which could be best characterized as ‘laissez faire’. Hospitals and clinics in the private sector advertise their wares smartly and entice such customers to avail their services. Once a patient has enrolled himself, a Customer Relationship Management software takes over. Greetings on birthdays and anniversaries, special screening camps, package deals – these are but some of the pretexts which get used to woo the patient for his next round of illness.

The well-heeled also have the luxury of choosing the system of medicine they wish to pursue. Allopathy is believed to be providing only interim succour or, in most cases, a basic relief. A regimen of popping the pills, exercise and food habits gets prescribed. Once they have become used to the same, life runs in an auto-pilot mode.

The well-heeled explorers

But the human nature is always on the lookout for refinements and the proverbial icing on the cake. A sense of creative dissatisfaction prevails. Despair and despondency soon take over and the search starts for an alternate system of healing. New frontiers get explored. New therapists get met. Merits and demerits of various kinds of treatments on offer get analyzed threadbare by those around, while the patient experiences the inner glow of satisfaction at being the centre of continued attraction and also at exploring new frontiers, much like a Columbus on a maiden voyage to discover Newfoundland.Patient Columbus-Day

This is not to say that an explorer-type attitude can be scoffed at. It reveals a sunny disposition on part of the inner being. The soul, unhappy at being burdened with a physical sheath which is infirm, merely endeavours to attain a state of perfection in the body allotted to it during a particular birth cycle. It uses all the powers at its command – analytical or intuitional – to achieve good health. It tries to bring about better harmony between its body, mind and soul. Wisdom gleaned from the medical fraternity as well as from the scriptures assists the soul in this task.

Besides managing a bodily affliction, patients have to confront the cold impersonality and crass commercialization of the healthcare delivery mechanism. This is but one of the perils of being a patient in today’s world.

(All illustrations are courtesy the world wide web)

(Note: Part of an article which appeared in NAMAH journal: http://www.namahjournal.com/doc/Actual/Patients-and-the-art-and-science-of-healing-Vol-24-iss-2.html)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/the-science-of-healing)

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I recently had the uplifting experience of being confined to a public hospital of repute. I call the experience “uplifting” because of the simple reason that if I were to forget the medical problem and just concentrate on the overall experience, both the body and the soul were truly enriched by the time my confinement had ended.

I have stayed in private as well as in public hospitals. We often speak of the latter in deprecatory terms. The term “government hospital” invariably leads us to imagine dingy corridors, dust-covered wards, negligent and indifferent doctors and nurses, and equipment which is seldom found in working order. Well, a recent experience of mine has been rather different. The doctors have a richer exposure, and commercial considerations do not overtake health issues.

I found that staying in a public hospital eventually disperses the pall of gloom which envelopes one on knowing of a medical problem. Moreover, the experience has its funnier aspects which leave one convinced that a brief stay of ten days not only changes one’s outlook on life but also reveals its sunnier side!

In Safe Hands!

The pre-admission check-ups led me to various “speciality” departments of the hospital. Even though my problem pertained to the abdomen, my eyes, teeth, heart, lungs, kidney, liver as well as my feet were all subjected to a complex battery of tests. Surprisingly, the doctors did not think there was anything wrong with my grey matter, so the brain was – thankfully – let off the hook. All the brisk walking that I had to do within the hospital campus left me in a much fitter shape than I ever was.

Interspersed with social distractions, it took as many as ten visits spread over six weeks before I could secure the coveted admission slip. I confess this feat would not have been possible without a strong will-power. Of particular help were the juices of patience and perseverance sloshing about within us. The underlying spirit of perfection which permeated the whole pre-admission process left me in awe of the robust systems which are in place. The fact that an allopathic view of the body is highly segmented and organ-centric did lead to inconvenience. However, at the end of it all, I felt that I was in safe hands!

An Unjustified Feeling of Being Lucky

Once diagnosed and advised to get admitted, I needed the support of two able-bodied relatives for a week to get a room allotted. The endless running from pillar to post made me learn the value of team work. When entering the hospital with our bag and baggage, we had to negotiate our way through the over-crowded corridors. Our experience and skills in weaving our car through the arterial roads of the metropolis we live in came in handy. It took us some time for our nasal faculties to get adjusted to the all-pervading smell of disinfectants.

On the way to the room allotted to me, human suffering in various forms was clearly visible. As a result, my own ailment paled into insignificance. Suddenly, a realization dawned that I was luckier to have a sickness which was much more manageable. Looking at people of all shapes and sizes with hopelessness oozing out of their sullen eyes, I thanked the Almighty for having been kinder to me than to quite a few others.

Being in a Medical Zoo

Once I and my wife had settled down in the room, we had a feeling as if we were either in a fish bowl or in a zoo. Just like the hapless animals confined to their cages, much away from their natural habitat, we were in a room, temporarily uprooted by fate from our home and hearth. In a zoo, the poor animals get ogled at, teased and harassed by the visiting public. Likewise, it was pretty normal for us to be visited by a group of enthusiastic as well as not-so-enthusiastic doctors, nurses, paramedics and other staff.

I dare say that the animals in a zoo are much better off; they at least have fixed visiting hours. We had no such luck. Late in the night, when we had switched off the lights and believed ourselves to have earned a night’s reprieve, a group of interns walked in, asking all kinds of questions regarding my medical history and current predicaments.

Animals get fed at random by some naughty kids, egged on by their cheering parents. In the hospital, I was fed medicines from time to time by the visiting nurses. I dare not call them naughty, because some of them wore a stern look which would have put a Hitler to shame.


Early morning, we would get rudely woken up by the cleaning lady at some ungodly hour. Her concept of playing “Suprabhatam” was a loud and unending banging on the door. The rude banging, reminding me of the percussion beats of a broken tabla would continue till the time my wife gingerly got up and switched on the lights.

Throughout the day, at frequent intervals, nurses would waltz in, either drawing a blood sample, or taking body temperatures, or simply reminding us to arrange our things tidily since the doctors would be on their routine rounds soon. A single doctor would pop up, aiming to check my blood pressure and pulse rate. A gang of doctors would then troop in, shoot a couple of perfunctory questions, and leave us wondering what would happen next. Specialists from various disciplines like cardiology, orthopaedic and ophthalmology would keep turning up in an endless stream throughout the day.

A Delighted Better Half!

Cleaning ladies, maids serving three meals and milk, coffee etc. in the day, would make a beeline for our room, ensuring that we both were well fed. This kind of dietary pampering left my wife in high spirits after a very long time. She no longer had to worry about the cooking and household management issues that plague her at home.

Experiencing Medical Tourism

We had several Good Samaritans supporting our unique venture in medical tourism. Delicious home cooked meals were just a call away. Internet connectivity was never an issue, though we never got leisurely time to enjoy the same. Supplies like newspapers, fruits, snacks and biscuits kept pouring in automatically.

One afternoon, a charming friend walked in and we had a leisurely chat on spiritual matters. Another evening, a friend walked in with piping hot samosas. Wife volunteered to use her electric kettle to produce a few cups of tea. A senior acquaintance walked in, only to find a rather boisterous tea party in progress. Overcoming his surprise and amazement, he lost no time in joining in!

Absolute Surrender

On the day of the surgery, it was as if my physical body had been forced to surrender, albeit not to a higher force but to an angel doctor who played God at that point in time. Post-operative care was compassionate and even small complaints were promptly attended to. On our request, the nurse on duty ensured that we were not woken up very early, but only at a more decent hour when it was absolutely necessary. This speeded up my recovery.

Why Public Hospitals Score Over Private Ones

By the time my treatment got over, I was not only healthier but also wiser. Having dutifully paid my taxes all through my working life, I realized the good silent work the government was doing in running these institutions of excellence, where the best possible medical care was being made available to the public at a minimal cost. Due to a much better exposure to various kinds of ailments, the technical knowledge of the doctors was much better than in privately managed hospitals. Above all, the patient is only expected to fall in line with the system and be “patient”, rather than being viewed as yet another money-making apparatus for the hospital.

Home, Sweet Home!

At the end of the ordeal, I look outside the window of my bedroom and notice that the birds are chirping merrily, the sun is shining brightly on a lazy winter morning, flowers are in full bloom, colourful butterflies are flitting about seeking their daily dose of nectar and the bees and the ants are going about their daily chores with much zest and vigour. Sipping a cup of tea, I fondly remember the efficient doctors, caring nurses and empathic staff I had come across during this unique medical sojourn!

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