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Hospitals, heal yourselves

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Mercenary practices of medical institutions are putting the poor on a see-saw battle between physical cure and financial death

Thanks to liberalisation and privatisation policies pursued without any let-up from the 1990s, public investment in human capital — healthcare and education — has been on the back burner, resulting in a mushrooming of avaricious institutions. Compassion thus becomes the first casualty.

Despite having highly talented doctors and nurses, government hospitals have neither adequate medicines and equipment nor are given critical operational autonomy required for their smooth functioning. They labour in vain.

Hospital horrors

Private hospitals, by definition, fleece patients. An example is the prevalent unacceptable practice of linking doctors’ remuneration to patient bills. The poor see-saw between physical cure and financial death.

Sadly, most charitable hospitals run by religious organisations compete to follow the worst practices of both private and government institutions.

Gresham’s Law (bad money driving good out of circulation) should not in any way deter hospitals from their mission of helping the poor and offering help to suffering patients and their families.

Indiscriminate implementation of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical colleges loses sight of the quintessential right attitude that a student must have to become a doctor, no less than merit and aptitude.

The lone star

Unique institutions such as the Christian Medical College, Vellore, remain a lodestar radiating the philosophy of Ida Scudder, the American medical missionary who started the hospital.

If I were to write an essay titled ‘My Life at Vellore,’ I would sing of the warm, healthy, breezy, ubiquitous hills that one meets everywhere here.

A visit to the Bagayam campus was a moveable feast. The house where Ida Scudder lived took me to the Vellore of the 19th century. She was instrumental in transforming it to the modern Vellore. Meetings with Hugh Skeil of the CMC were unforgettable. He hailed from Glasgow, where I, too, had lived four full seasons.

We had loads of common concerns to share. I made a token contribution to a wonderful scheme of his. Whatever amount one gives, multiplied by five, would reach a poor patient, the CMC contributing the four-fifths.

Sneha Bhavan is a landmark in healthcare service that one cannot miss. We must salute the ever-ready Joby Achen, a philanthropist who takes care of every patient 24x7, regardless of caste, creed or other considerations. It was established to provide low-cost accommodation and guidance to patients and their families.

Saving human lives was the incredible passion that drove Ida Scudder. So it is sad to see today the mindless, helmet-less two-wheeler riders racing on busy Vellore roads. What is disturbing is not so much the absence of penal consequences, as the sheer lack of awareness of danger. Let us not make Ida Scudder turn in her grave.

(The author is a former

IAS officer)

kuruvillaperayil@gmail.com

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 2:00:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/hospitals-heal-yourselves/article29864275.ece

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