Millennium Post

Doctors in a democracy

The demise of an elderly patient in Kolkata led to a situation that has far graver implications than just the event that has brought to a standstill the hospital administration at large. It is certainly not unpredictable what might become of a society in the absence of a well-functioning healthcare system. In the spate of violence occurring in the state, it is the unfortunate death of a new-born in the very same hospital due to lack of attendance by a doctor that is a painful example of the obvious repercussion of a society without doctors. The incident at Kolkata's NRS hospital may have compelled over 200 medicos to resign but their ire had long been brewing due to a set of reasons. It is no surprise that doctors from across the country have come out in solidarity with Kolkata. As far as the pitiable statistics go, the doctor to patient ration is abysmally below 1:1000 ratio as prescribed by World Health Organisation. After the immense struggle during adolescence for selection in a medical school and arduous journey of just being qualified as a doctor, the vigour for becoming a good and a well-established one takes its toll significantly on the individual who has a "Dr." prefixed to his name. Given the immense workload and lack of adequate infrastructure to support optimal performance (from overcrowded OPDs to performing surgeries in unthinkable conditions that raise the most basic question of hygiene before everything else), the services rendered by doctors are undoubtedly much more than what is capacitated to them. India spends just a little over one per cent of its GDP on healthcare, putting it amongst the lowest in the world to do so. The Modi government's National Health Policy that commits to spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on healthcare is still far from sufficient. What India needs in order to have a reasonable healthcare system is much more number of doctors along with better infrastructure, drug pricing and management, and broader insurance coverage. Hospitals also need to be accountable but this would be a justifiable demand only when the basic functionings happen without glitch. Indian Medical Association gives the statistics of about 75 per cent doctors across the country having faced some kind of violence while at work. No wonder IMA is seeking a law against violence on medical professionals. In a country where doctors are unsafe, how can the health and well-being of a common citizen be guaranteed?

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