Millennium Post

Hippocratic loathe!

Any day of the year, hospitals in the national capital are found teeming with people seeking medical assistance, lined up in one lonely corner or trying to persuade doctors to attend to them. But there seems to prevail a scathing indifference towards their plight. As many as 44 private hospitals in Delhi had pledged to provide free treatment to the poor but have turned their backs in due course.

These hospitals had taken land at throw-away prices from the Delhi government with the promise to treat such patients and provide them high-quality healthcare. The Supreme Court bench had upheld the Delhi High Court’s order, which in 2007, had ruled that all private hospitals which were given public land at highly subsidised costs would provide free treatment to the poor, earmarking 25 per cent of their out-patient department (OPD) capacity and 10 per cent of their in-patient department capacity for them. ‘They (poor patients) will be provided free admission, bed, medication, treatment, surgery facility, nursing facility and consumables and non-consumables. The hospitals charging any money from such patients shall be liable to be proceeded against in accordance with the law. Besides that, this would be treated as violation of the orders of the court,’ the high court had observed.

However, the present state of affairs came to light after the Supreme Court appointed Economically Weaker Sections Monitoring committee revealed that six major hospitals admitted less than 1 per cent of poor patients. 17 of them admitted less than 5 per cent as against the mandatory 10 per cent beds for the poor in 2013-14.

All this, coupled with the basic approach towards treating the poor is condemnable. It evokes unprecedented stoicism towards those who take the Hippocratic Oath and conveniently forget to abide by the same once they start earning rich remunerations. As it is the cost of healthcare in the capital places an unbearable strain on thousands of poor families, something that still remains unaddressed and unaccounted for, despite some very strict measures by the government. While pundits allege gross dereliction of duty and human values on the part of doctors, the entire system needs a transformation. Such hospitals coming up with false promises of treating the poor must be made accountable without political overtures and impunity.

Affluent businessmen and expatriate Indians have set up lavish hospitals at prime locations in the city where the rich enjoy splendid facilities along with the comfort of renowned doctors. On the other hand, the plight of the poor continues. Forget treating them, these private hospitals often come up with excuses to shake off responsibility to accommodate those who have references from government hospitals. There is an urgent need for immediate amendment so that India’s economic growth is not jeopardised by the status of the health of the poor.
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