Sleazy Hospitals

Sleazy Hospitals

Sorry, I had to skip the column last week due to some health problem for which I had to be hospitalised.

Sorry, I had to skip the column last week due to some health problem for which I had to be hospitalised.

This week I want to give holiday to the politicians and share some of my experiences in hospitals over the years. When I was very small, during the pre and post independence days, we had dispensaries or small clinics run by RMPs (registered medical practitioners) in the villages. They did not possess any medical degress like MBBS; they were either some healthcare certificate holders, pharmacists, or persons who had worked with some qualified doctors as compounders. The unique thing with those RMPs is that they treated the patients by seeing or feeling the symptoms of disease. In those days one has to go to the district hospital to get the blood tested or to get an X-Ray done. While the present day doctors with MBBS, MD, FRCS and other foreign degrees would not start the treatment before getting the diagnostic reports, those RMPs did not waste the valuable time. They would generally give a couple of pills and a pink coloured mixture. In acute cases an injection would also be given. That worked like a miracle in most cases.

From the ill-equipped dispensaries and district hospitals in the early days there was a tremendous growth and advance in the medical profession. Speciality Hospitals emerged first followed by Superspeciality Hospitals and then Multi-Superspeciality Hospitals. How do we grade Multi-Superspeciality Hospitals? Unlike the Star Hotels, there are no grading agencies for hospitals. In fact, there is a proliferation of such private medical institutions which fleece patients under the pretext of offering quality treatment. The greed for money has overtaken medical ethics and the Hippocratic oath of selfless service.

Hospitals not only overcharge for the services they provide, they also bill for supplies and services which a patient does not require. The patients are quite often forced to undergo innumerable tests even for ordinary ailments. There are instances when dead patients are kept in the ventilator for several days and a huge bill is slapped on the relatives. It is easy to dupe anxious relatives who are eager to see their dear ones kept alive as long as possible.

Sometimes, patients’ relatives feel intimidated and powerless against these institutions because of their ignorance about the laws and forums which can address their grievances. Some even give up as they do not want to get into a fight after the patient has expired. And in the absence of a government regulator, this sorry state of daylight robbery has been flourishing.

I too was a victim of such fleecing by hospitals on several occasions. I would like to share with you one such classic incident. Some years ago I was staying in Mumbai alone when I had a very severe stomach problem due to diarrhoea. On the second day I virtually collapsed and one of my friends admitted me to Lilavati Hospital in Bandra West. That was a Sunday and not a single doctor was available for consultation. The hospital authorities kept me in the ICU and I was all right within a couple of hours. By that time my wife and son also reached Mumbai. They were asked to keep a deposit of Rs 50,000 for treatment which they did. Then the investigations began in order to find the reason for the diarrhoea!

A young thing came to my bed and started filling up a proforma. She wanted to know whether there was a history of diarrhoea in my family – father, mother and other sibilings. I said my father died when I was a little boy. Did he die of diarrhoea, asked the young lady. Possibly not, I replied.

Meanwhile, samples of blood, urine, sputum, stool etc. were taken for tests. Besides, X-Ray, ECG, Echo-cardiogram and scanning of the stomach were also done to get a possible clue for the diarrhoea!

On the second day, I saw a technician preparing to drill my throat. When questioned, he said my kidneys were not functioning and hence I had to undergo an important test. A device will be inserted into the kidneys through a hole in the throat and I will be bed-ridden for 8 days when the test will be over. I asked for the duty doctor who came and he also explained to me that my kidneys were non-functional as the little urine output shows.

I questioned the doctor for not taking my permission for the test which is mandatory. Nor did they inform my wife or son about it. I told the doctor that the urine output was less because I was suffering from dairrhoea for two days and all the water from my body had drained out. Though I was put on glucose, that water goes for replacement in the body. Naturally, the urine output will be less, I tried to reason out with the doctor. Still he insisted that all’s not well with my kidneys and I had to undergo the test.

I was also equally adamant. The hospital authorities then tried to convince my family and also my employer saying that I would not live for more than one year if the test was not done and proper treatment not taken. Nothing succeeded.

Meanwhile, on the fourth day, an eye specialist came to check my eyes. I told him that I had no problem with my eyes and refused to be examined by him. Interestingly, a nurse seems to have found my eyes watering and reported the matter to the authorities!

I said enough is enough. I wanted to take discharge before they put me to some AIDS or potency test. Finally I was discharged against medical advice and at my own personal risk. Incidentally, all these four days I was in the ICU as they said they had no vacant bed or room to shift me. I paid a whopping bill of Rs 60,000 plus and probably this will be the highest ever bill paid by a patient suffering from diarrhoea. Six years have passed and I live with the same kidneys without any problems.

After some similar incidents in Hyderabad, I have decided not to go to a multi-speciality hospital for any treatment. This time when I had fever and severe cough, I got admitted in a small hospital owned by Bhavan’s at Sainikpuri. The hospital is cleaner and less crowded; the Special rooms and AC rooms are more spacious than at most of the top hospitals in the city. On the second day they wanted to discharge me, but I stayed on for one more day. And finally when I paid the bill and came out, a famous thought crossed my mind, “Small is Beautiful.”

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