For want of a few hundred rupees, a baby has died in Baraich in Uttar Pradesh. He was only 10 months old and his poor parents were not able to pay the bribe that was demanded by the hospital staff. As always the state administration has swung into action too late asking for a report. Instead of a report into this particular case, it might be more useful for patients if there was a probe into the vast mafia of touts and medical workers who hold patients to ransom in return for the health care that they are entitled to. In Kolkata, a man died because his family could not pay yet another bribe on top of the several already paid to government hospital staff.
But why go as far as Baraich. The medical worker-touts nexus operates in government hospitals in Delhi right under the noses of our law makers. It is a shame that even basic healthcare is not available to millions of Indians until they grease the palms of unauthorised and often unqualified workers.
The patient who does not have clout in the public health system pays for admission. The list then becomes endless. He has to pay bribes for a doctor’s attention, for tests, for a hospital bed and for medicines. If he cannot pay up, chances are this hospital visit literally becomes a choice between life and death for him.
In a country where there is only one doctor to 1,681 people by the Medical Council of India’s own admission, those without power and money fall through the cracks.
In fact, for the disadvantaged a medical crisis is enough to push them into abject poverty, the provision of free healthcare notwithstanding. It must be asked how touts are allowed to roam around freely within hospital premises and collude with medical workers.
The horrible conditions in government hospitals often force people to seek private health care. There too, they are subject to rapacious medical workers and substandard care in many cases. We have often heard about probes being ordered into malpractices in the public health system, but somehow things don’t seem to improve.
The only chance that this baby’s parents have of getting justice is the fact that UP is poll bound and the administration may act so that it does not th e issue to become a political weapon in the hands of the Opposition parties. A really bitter pill to swallow for India at 70.