GOVERNMENT hospitals have the status of a religious place. They are the temples of last resort for most seriously ill Indians unless they have deep-enough pockets to withstand a long spell in a private hospital, here or abroad. Government doctors, too, have the aura of demi-gods, plying their trade amidst a vast swirling mass of humanity with few facilities at their disposal. But something is amiss when patients allege that doctors in a government hospital shake down patients. The last word has not been said as the VC of PGIMS, Rohtak, has ordered a probe into allegations.
As reported in The Tribune, it all began, says a former government official, when his wife lay unattended and doctors had to be coaxed into treating her by greasing their palms. The complainant has gone on to allege a nexus between private medical practioners, the institute’s doctors and staffers of private diagnostic centres. A probe is on but there are some detectible shortcomings. The first is the failure to radically alter the staffing pattern despite the inroads made by information technology into the medical profession. As a result, nearly 70 per cent of expenditure in government hospitals is on salaries and upkeep. The second aspect flows from the first. There is very little left over in the hospital’s kitty to provide several in-house services that forces patients to rely on private facilities, especially in diagnostics.
But even the poor are now opting for private hospitals for acute illnesses because they provide advanced medical facilities under a single roof. Moreover, private hospitals have soft skills such as approachability and friendly conduct which makes them a more preferred destination. Government hospitals are still a cost-effective and non-extortionist lifeline, especially in high-poverty areas. They need much more attention that what they are currently being afforded. The PGIMS Rohtak case exemplifies the need for adequate funding and friendlier staff so that governments fulfil this important aspect of their social contract with the citizens.