Doctor, heal thyself

Over the years ministers belonging to successive governments have been paying customary ‘surprise’ visits to various hospitals and dispensaries where they suspend some odd official for ‘deriliction of duty’ as well. They receive accolades from the people and press for such actions against erring doctors and paramedics. The ‘storm’ however dies down soon after news fades from public memory. It is generally believed that orders issued by the government are usually not implemented; they just gather dust and feed moths in the civil secretariat. 

The state government banned private practice of government doctors working in the state hospitals, government medical colleges and SKIMS repeatedly. But at no point of time were these orders implemented earnestly. A majority of senior doctors are still running private nursing homes and those not owning one, are working in them. There is a rash of private nursing homes and hospitals in Srinagar. The mushrooming of such well-equipped hospitals should be a healthy sign. But these private nursing homes are draining the resources of the public health system by employing doctors already on the rolls of government hospitals. Many surgeons exploit the desperation of critically ill patients waiting treatment in government hospitals, and operate upon them in private hospitals charging high fees. Most equipment in the state-run hospitals and Medical institute is deliberately kept out of order, so patients are forced to attend private path labs and diagnostic centres. The doctor who refers a patient to a particular laboratory allegedly gets 10 to 20 per cent commission. Many pharmaceutical companies are believed to be sponsoring high profile tours of doctors to various parts of the country. In certain cases, bribes are allegedly paid to senior doctors for prescribing specific medicines. Providing free samples of medicines to doctors are a thing of past; now the samples are supplemented with expensive gifts. It would be wrong to believe that government will ever be successful in disciplining these money minded professionals. There is need to mobilize public opinion in the fight for a healthy and clean medical profession.

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