Corruption plagues Govt. hospitals

Bindu Shajan Perappadan

NEW DELHI: Each year petty corruption in the Indian health system drains the country of Rs.2,017crores. The States leading this notorious race are West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, which according to "India Corruption Study— 2005" conducted by Transparency International India and the Centre for Media Studies have the most corrupt government hospitals in the country.

The survey, which takes an overview of corruption in the government hospitals in India, notes that the most frequent irregularities that the common man has to face include non-availability of medicines, unethical practices by doctors, physicians asking patients to go to a particular diagnostic centre, over-prescription of drugs and prescribing diagnostic tests that may not be necessary -- all cases where the monetary value of corruption cannot be directly ascertained.

Also, of all the respondents who came to government hospitals for treatment 30 per cent claimed that they had to take recourse to "alternative methods'' like paying bribe or using influence and that their prime reasons for using alternative methods were to get faster, out-of-turn treatment and facilities including consultation with senior doctor instead of juniors, clean bed-sheets and better food for in-patients.

Sixty per cent of the patients also complained that they had to make repeated visits for treatment due to manpower shortage and infrastructure related reasons. Also, in case of patients using government hospitals, 43 per cent felt that the quality of services provided at hospitals was poor.

Fifty-two per cent of those who had been to the hospital informed that the necessary medicines were never available in hospitals, adding that doctors don't pay enough attention to patients in the government hospitals and asked them to visit their private clinics instead.

The long waiting period for getting any consultation or treatment is another frequent problem faced by the users of government hospitals. Though the problem is basically due to low capacity of the hospitals, it creates an opportunity for corruption by giving hospital staff the power to provide the required service out-of-turn.

The survey further revealed that doctors also frequently asked patients to get the diagnostic test from a particular private laboratory.

"It is well known that the laboratories pay a commission to the doctor on every patient referred. Of course, the commission they pay to the doctor is collected from patients by charging higher rates. Our survey showed that bribes were paid for services including getting admissions and medicines from government dispensaries. In case of getting admission to the hospital it is mainly due to the acute shortage of beds," said the Director for the Centre for Media Studies, Naveen Surapaneni.

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