Column: We Need A Service-Oriented Health System

By Ashutosh Mishra

London: Healthcare system in England is pretty good. The state takes good care of its people and chances of being fleeced or exploited by doctors are almost nil. Doctors refrain from prescribing unnecessary medicines or recommending excessive tests. This is because they are not going to gain anything from it. They are well paid and hence less prone to human failings like greed. The whole system runs like a well- oiled machine under a welfare state that remains committed to its responsibilities. Once you become a permanent resident you are fully taken care of.

The elderly are well looked after by the state. Even those staying alone have nothing to fear as they can call ambulances at any hour of the day or night. There are people to assist them everywhere. Perhaps this is necessary in cities like London where so many senior citizens stay at home all by themselves. The culture is such that most children stay away from their parents as both need and value their private space. Personally, I find our cultural ethos much better in this respect. Despite the gradual erosion of our old value system we still prefer staying with our parents and elders and the family is not considered complete without them. This is a big boost for the elderly who need to have their families around them which is always reassuring.

But talking of the healthcare system as such the British appear to be miles ahead of us. The system gives people the best and runs with clockwork precision. You cannot even dream of a Dana Majhi like incident taking place here. The problem with us in our state is that we refuse to learn our lessons. This is evident from the fact that we have had a few re-runs of the Dana Majhi episode after that unfortunate incident in Kalahandi a few years ago. Hearses and ambulances still don’t turn up in time and cases of women giving birth to babies by the wayside and in makeshift stretchers are reported at regular intervals.

Not long ago a woman in the tribal-dominated Nupada district delivered a baby in a cot on which she was being carried from her hilltop village to the hospital as the ambulance had failed to turn up. Poor people in far flung tribal hamlets have been the worst victims of this kind of apathy on the part of healthcare authorities.

While infrastructural deficiencies continue to bedevil our healthcare system it is being made worse by huge vacancies in government-run hospitals. Absenteeism among doctors working in district hospitals and health centres is still rampant, the phenomenon being most visible in interior areas. The government, so far, has been able to do little about it.

Private healthcare system is driven only by profit motive. Victims of corporate culture most hospitals in the private sector employ good doctors but they are under such pressure to justify their high salary bills that they end up focusing more on extracting as much money as possible from patients. The Hippocratic Oath thus turns into hypocritical oath. How can you trust such a system?

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)