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05-29-2012, 04:51 AM #1
Aamir Khan takes on the evils in medical care
Greedy Doctors. Greedy healthcare. That was the issue that Aamir Khan confronted and studied threadbare in yesterday’s (27 May 20120) episode of Satyamev Jayate (Star Plus).
One saw Aamir in a new light: as a hard-nosed investigator, interrogator, rather than as a confidante and as a social activist wanting to uncover evils in society gently.
Yes, he did have the customary tears, but he went for the jugular, baring his fangs and holding accountable those who have brought the entire Indian healthcare system to the state it is.
In a country where we revere doctors, assigning them almost with a divine status, it was disturbing to know that the men in white, who have taken the Hippocrates oath, choose to suck the financial resources out of patients and their families, sometimes at the costs of their lives.
As usual, an interesting bunch of people – doctors, patients, officials - came to speak freely about the rot that has gotten to the core of Indian health care.
Greed seems to be steeped in every aspect of the medical profession, is what Aamir disclosed. Right from the time a young student pays Rs 5 to 6 million as capitation fees to get into a medical college to the time when pharma companies jack up prices of drugs to reward doctors who prescribe their branded cures. “There are commissions everywhere,” he said. “Pathologists pay doctors money for every test they bring refers to them; surgeons pay money to doctors if they send surgery cases their way. It is extremely commercial, healthcare in India.”
This simulcast show brought out the fact that India spends 1.4% of GDP on health while it needs 6% to be just okay.
The most shocking case was of retired army officer Major Pankaj Rai. He came to tell the tale of what happened to his wife Seema, a school teacher who was on dialysis. Her doctor told her that she could get rid of the regular need for dialysis if she agreed for a kidney and pancreas transplant. Even before the family could give consent, the patient was wheeled into surgery where something went wrong as may be the doctor’s was not trained. What was really galling as mentioned by the guest was that when finally the lady passed away, they did not even have the courtesy to inform the family of her death. Since the matter is sub-judice a smart Aamir did not himself elude motive, but left it to the victim’s husband and daughter to allege greed (he paid Rs 8 lakh for the procedure which left his wife dead). An audience member added her own horror story about how a hospital was forcing a very expensive treatment on her ill father when he just had a gastrointestinal problem.
Aamir also smartly brought out the demon of capitation fees which prompts most doctors to turn rogue. Many times doctors prescribe unnecessary tests to make a quick buck. To highlight this point, Aamir spoke about the basic blood test or “basin test” wherein blood samples are not tested but thrown into a sink with the report saying that all is well with the patient. Doctors mandate this test, knowing that the report will come up with no abnormalities.
He lauded a Mumbai-based pathology lab owner who took a position not to take commissions. The doctor, Dr Anil Pichad, earned the wrath of others from the profession but has since stuck to his stance. Aamir appreciated Pichad, saying he will only come for testing to him.
One of the big high points was when Aamir had the head of medical council (MCA) Dr KK Talwar in the dock when he asked him to explain why no firm action had been taking against any doctor since 2008, wherein none of them had their licences cancelled. Throughout the conversation, Talwar looked immensely uncomfortable and kept hurling one lame excuse after another.In the UK 40 or more doctors are delicensed each year. In a bid to instill drama, the edit team only showed the extreme reaction of some audience members when they heard the above tales.
If the first half made it look that all doctors are bad the second half attempted to balance it out. We had two doctors who have made a big contribution to society. Dr Samit Sharma risked mafia pressure to provide cheaper generic and equally effective drugs to the people in Rajasthan. The doctor added that what tempted him to push for this change was the fact that he saw his poor house servant lose her child for she could not afford expensive branded drugs for a simple ailment like diarrhea. The child’s life could have been saved if generic drugs would have been available.
Then came well known doctor Dr Devi Shetty, who talked about a successful medical insurance policy which makes it possible to provide cheap medical treatment to poor people in south India. This insurance policy and plan is now being adapted by other state governments.
He also informed the medical students who were part of the audience that he is doing very well and he has had to wrong things to accumulate the wealth he has.
The show ended with a beautiful song Ek Sooni Si Naav Hai Zindagi sung by Ram Sampath.
My view is that Aamir is doing a yeoman service by creating awareness about the ills that afflict Indian society. The bottom-line however is that he will have to walk the talk once the 13 episodes are over. For these ills and evils which are endemic in India are deep-rooted and require long-term attention and not just piecemeal pouring of money and chest beating in front of the camera.