Friday, March 24, 2023

Unaffordable system

A weak and overcrowded public health system in most states, has led to the burgeoning private healthcare business across the country even though these hospitals are poorly regulated and expensive. In short, today the cost of medical treatment has become so high that those from economically weak background cannot afford the cost.Worse is that government hospitals are not providing even the basic treatment despite huge money being spend on medical health. Except in Kohima or Dimapur or to a small extent, in Mokokchung, hospitals in other districts lack basic facilities. There have been reports published in local dailies regarding non functional x-ray machines or non availability of laboratory technicians or unavailability of needed medical equipments. This has led to proliferation of private hospitals and speciality clinics across several towns in Nagaland. Still most of these modern private hospitals lack many specialists and modern equipments available at other metro cities such as Guwahati, Kolkata etc. The further one went westwards, the better the medical facilities and also the super cost that came with them. The reason why medical treatment in cities is very high comes from the financial targets set for doctors working in profit driven hospitals that lead to expensive but unnecessary tests and surgery . According to Dr Gautam Mistry, a cardiologist in Kolkata, such unethical practices are widely known about in medical circles but public discourse has been lacking. He said doctors in 5-star hospitals or medical research institutes face pressure from the management to “overprescribe surgeries or investigations”. Those who meet the targets are given “financial incentives”, it was said. It has become a routine matter that whenever ignorant patients go to such hospitals they are asked to undergo several tests, most of which are unnecessary and also to be done at ‘ preferred laboratories’ linked with the hospital. Next once a patient is admitted to a hospital, more tests are done and very expensive medicines are prescribed which are mostly unwarranted when less expensive ones are available outside. Often many such medicines/ vaccines are available only at prescribed chemist shops. That benefits pharma companies and the doctors who prescribe them but inflate the bills for patients. Top private hospitals are charging according to the room a patient selects even for the same operation by the same doctors in the same operation theatre. For heart problems, patients are given stent implants even if it is not needed in most cases. A stent may cost a patient anything between Rs. 60,000 -100,000 or more depending upon the status of hospitals or pockets of gullible patients. It’s not uncommon to give stents to patients at three times the import price. Worse, it may be harmful and may cause death yet doctors take bribes to recommend stents. The other scam is persuading expectant mothers to opt for C-section for deliveries instead of advising normal treatment. Patients are kept unnecessary for long durations in hospital mainly to fleece money. Patients are also charged with everything under the sun except sunlight and air. It is overdue that new rules are framed to streamline health care system across both government and private sectors for the benefit of the patients.

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