Mistaking Gloss for Standards

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Republishing this post today to add this quote of horror:

Usha Devi, a slum dweller, went into labour at night on the 12th Jan 2012 . She was taken by her husband to Chittaranjan Hospital, which refused to admit her, and sent her to Shambhunath Pandit Hospital. On the way there, she delivered a baby outside Chittaranjan Hospital. Uma Devi, the newborn and her husband went to Shambhunath Pandit Hospital, who refused to admit her and asked them to go back to Chittaranjan hospital. She delivered her second baby outside Shambhunath Hospital and died. The twins, losing their mother within a day of their birth are themselves in serious condition. The macabre treadmill goes on.

A little over two months ago, 30 infant deaths in West Bengal Government hospitals was big news. Around the same time, another story went viral. That of a pregnant woman who was in labor being denied admission in a hospital. She delivered on the street outside the hospital. Everybody and his cousin were angry with West Bengal authorities for shoddy healthcare and callous disregard.

One would imagine that this was an outrageous incident, and I think many imagined that, but it is really an outrageous pattern. I mean, pregnant women dismissed have delivered outside hospitals, in cars, outside emergency wards, outside elevators... because the  refused to hospitals refused to help them. Even twins! I mean, a woman ready to deliver twins is like really obviously badly pregnant. Can’t be missed. Pregnancy and delivery is still a natural phenomenon, and one way or the other, deliveries happen, unless there are complications. And it isn’t like being admitted is any kind of guarantee that anyone cares. Read the story of Nisarga’s birth.

Victims of torture refused admission have spent the night on the street. Howzzat!

Another documentary had gone viral about conditions of government hospitals in Delhi. Frankly, all this information is the best advertisement for home birthing if no health concerns are present.

Today, a fire broke out in the basement at AMRI in Calcutta. This is a high end, centrally air-conditioned hospital, and that central air-conditioning took the smoke from a basement fire and circulated it all through the building. People died desperate deaths as staff escaped and left them to die. Unbelievable accounts of security guards refusing entry to locals come to help, reluctance to call fire brigade and windows that couldn’t be opened have tempers blazing in empathetic fury.

Other information emerging about basement used like a godown, warnings from Fire Brigade ignored, lack of emergency plans even inability to provide very basic information to fire fighters likel locations of emergency stairs is adding to public fury. The Uphaar tragedy was relived in a hospital.

Many praised Mamata Banerjee for swift action against the culprits. I don’t see it as anything extraordinary. For that matter, there was no need to play extra curricular superman. Police ought to have arrested them anyway. What does it mean that it takes Mamata for them to be arrested after such an incident? Will our police not arrest rich people if they commit crimes unless someone tells them?

And there are hordes of other scams (will add links later – bad network) related with government funding but no free treatment for poor, vaccines, referrals, transplants…. you name it.

It isn’t about government hospitals being substandard. It is a lack of standards all through.

It all comes down to one root cause – lack of standards being enforced. Without appropriate oversight, people are free to twist the system to taste, and this is turning our healthcare into a health scare.

Employees in government hospitals grudge patients care. Maternity hospitals promote more expensive cesareans, induce women before time to fill “empty beds”. More expensive hospitals create increasingly service industry type “products” and focus more on delivering an experience. Researchers conduct shady trials that they couldn’t in other places. Others promote additional vaccines, while government vaccine productions capabilities are decreased, leading to extremely lucrative deals.

This whole scenario reminds me of something P L Deshpande said about Pune’s shopkeepers (satire) “In the entire shop, if there is anything to be ignored, it is the customer.”

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About the Author

Vidyut
Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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