SOCIAL JUSTICE THROUGH HEALTH CARE
We hardly come across a person who may be fully satisfied with the health care delivery system run by either the government or the private sector. This is true not only for developing but for all the developed countries as well. Every law abiding, contributing individual has some legitimate expectations from the state. Disenchantment with present dispensation of health care compels people to seek better options across the borders. Even the present flow rate of patients from developed to developing countries has assumed the proportions of Medical tourism. Medical tourism is not a one-way traffic. Poor from India are known to visit Rashid Hospital at Lahore for kidney transplants. Medical tourism will definitely bring in world class equipment and services in our corporate hospitals. These corporate tertiary care hospitals can act as excellent referral hospitals. Lack of enough clinical material, as the patients are often referred to in medical parleyences is prompting the doctors from developed world into medical adventurism. Very recently two NGO’s headed by renowned plastic surgeons of Indian origin were in India, claiming to their credit hundreds of cleft lip and palate surgeries conducted in one week. During my brief interaction when I asked them one basic question that how do you justify single step surgery by a single specialist for a clinical entity that require 3-5 set up surgeries by 10 specialists over a period of 20 years, there was no answer. On record local doctors conduct all these surgeries. These NGO’s bring in a battery of trainee resident doctors for hands on training. Dumping of questionable services and drugs continues unabated in the absence of stringent regulations. Clear-cut up to date guidelines by health authorities have yet to be issued to safe guard the health interests of this nation. Most of the drugs banned in developed countries are still being dumped in the Indian market. Commerce alone dictates the policies of multinational companies in health sector of developing countries. State and national medical councils, the watch dogs of our national health interests are controlled by elected representatives from among the doctors. Competitive populism for being elected to these high offices takes away the very sting off these regulators. In this ‘market forces’ driven health sector, apart from other factors, size of the population, economic prosperity and literacy levels dictate the out look of key players. Subjective as well as objective assessments of the health care operations leave people confused with huge piles of data and endless interpretations. At the tail end of govt. health care delivery system is the rural dispensary or the slum revamping center, and the end user an illiterate or semi literate villager or a slum dweller. Dispensary is the humane face, the welfare state can present to its people. In yesteryears the service providers were from among the same social class they used to serve. Doctor can be a friend, philosopher and guide to the locals. Unfortunately the economic and social disparity between the service providing doctors and the service user population has grown enormously. Ad-hocism in health care delivery should be done away with immediate effect. Doctors and paramedical staff appointed on yearly contract basis are not showing any interest in the national programmes. Established private health care providers also have not shown any meaningful commitment for national programmes. Middle class itself has fragmented. Now it is fashionable to assign economic values to any issue like gender, but for social responsibility and justice. In this era of fast paced growth, the unorganized, silently suffering millions can not be wished away. Once reading on biodiversity I stumbled upon a very interesting quote, “only the species with economic importance will survive”. In our active pursuit for magnetizing economy, we assigned economic values to any thing except for morals. Commercialization of education has produced a new breed of professionals who have scant regard for professional ethics. Privatization is the buzzword with governments, because it takes away government responsibility. Private sector players are eyeing many ‘viable’ health institutions. There are no takers for commercially non-viable rural institutions. Rural health institutions dispense social medicine. Very recently one of the key players from private sector health care quoted the cost of developing one bed in corporate hospital at Rs. 30-60 lacs. These corporate health services are definitely out of each of the common man. These type of hospitals are definitely required for a nation with the present rate of growth but ‘bharat’ definitely needs different kind of hospitals. There are very strong social under currents against the exploitive private healthcare, inadequate government sector health care resources and the indifferent approach of welfare state. Health for all is a very lofty but expensive proposition. There are ways and means to reduce the pressure from government institutions. Private-public partnership, health insurance, monitoring and regulation of private sector health care can all make the things bit easy. Preventive health care education can go a long way in improving the public health. Community participation in health care has produced few but wonderful examples. Complementary community participation can make up for minor but critical deficiencies in the government run health care system. Setting up of health system corporations with World Bank assistance has already improved the working of govt. sector health care institutions considerably. Community participation through NGO’s can still improve the system, but most of the meaningful NGO’s turn their back on govt. run health care institutions because of their doubts on the integrity of government officers. Government health care institution are increasingly seen not as caring hospitals but like police stations, where medico legal reports are written and postmortems conducted. Most of the government doctors’ time is spent in courts appearing as medico legal experts witnesses. Emergency, post mortem, and then the VIP duties in addition hardly leave the doctors free for any meaningful job at government hospitals. There is an urgent need to have separate curative, preventive, legal, administrate and health intelligence wings. Government hospitals attract the poorest of the poor, mostly people from the unorganized sector. Their contribution to national GDP is by no means small. With the present growth rate, upward social mobility is seen in every strata of society. Many segments of this unorganized sector can be organised so that they also enjoy the patronage of welfare state in the form of health insurance policies. Apart from direct benefit to these segments of society, the state will benefit from the ‘off loading’ of burden from government run health care system and loading it on insurance driven private sector health care institutions. Poorest of the poor will repose faith in welfare state. Sanjivini, health insurance policy with the Punjab Milkmen Cooperative Societies is already a big success. ECHS (Ex servicemen Contributory Health Scheme) is an other success story. These success stories can be replicated with countless groups like, panwallas, dhabewallas, autorikshaw drivers etc. Simply organize the unorganized sector. There is no dearth of role models from among government doctors also. Their inclusion rather than drift after dissent from the present dispensation of health care will immensely improve the system. Stability of tenure is an excellent incentive government can give to its doctors without costing anything to exchequer. Yet tenure beyond decades should be discouraged as it leads to development of vested interests of the old incumbents and denial of chance to the youngsters. Resource mismatching is a major problem in the govt. run health care system. There are dispensaries where specialists are posted and still many more civil hospitals where non-specialist are posted. These mismatching result in defective and inefficient health care. Nodal Hospitals can be created for round the clock emergency services by cannibalizing defunct and sick institutions where equipment worth crores is lying unused and salary bills are bleeding the exchequer white. Most of the medical officers retire in the same administrate rank. This undue stagnation has forced many a brilliant doctors out of service. By simply seeking options for place of posting, honestly implementing with minimum displacement on merit can also revitalize the govt. doctors’ cadres. Private sector health care delivery system is a totally market driven commercial enterprise. So called ‘market forces’ have least respect for ethical and moral value systems. Multi level marketing chains have evolved in the name of referral systems. End result is exploitation of the unsuspecting common man, who still regards his healer a holy person. This ‘incentive’ system is strengthening the hold of unqualified, unscrupulous and unregistered medical practitioners on illiterate masses. Not many qualified doctors are unscrupulous. A large section of private health care providers feel genuinely threatened by blackmailers of all sorts. Consumer protection act is a very convenient beating stick in the hands of their tormentors.
Under the constant threat of being blackmailed, the private health care providers are becoming more defensive in attitude. More patients are being referred to tertiary care institutions for this reason only, thereby flooding the referral institutions. People have a common feeling that sickness is an invitation for exploitation at the hands of private health care providers. Even the charitable hospitals are charging as heavily as fully private hospitals. Medical profession is fully responsible and capable of self-correction. Medical councils and associations can jointly evolve a fail-safe mechanism to keep their black sheep under check even without government help, but the buck stops with the government. Welfare state is duty bound not only in providing health care delivery system but also proper health care administration and social justice through its health care delivery mechanism.
Name : Dr. Pardeep Kumar Sharma
Email-ID : email@example.com.
(M) : 0988456296
Date of Birth : 12.02.1962
Education Qualifications : BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery)
MDS (Master of Dental Surgery in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery)
Educational Institutes Attended
Govt. High School Bargari : Matriculation (1969-1977)
Distt. Faridkot, Punjab, India
DAV College Chandigarh : Pre-University (1973-79)
Barjindra College Faridkot : Pre-Medical (1980)
Dental Wing, Medical College : BDS (1981-1986)
Dental College and Hospital : MDS (2003-2006)
House Officer, Christian : 1987-1988
Medical College & Hospital,
Research Officer, All India : Jan. 1989 to June 1989
Institute of Medical Science
AIIIMS, New Delhi
Dental Officer, Indian Armed : July 1989 to August 1994.
Forces in the Rank of Capt.
Medical Officer (Dental) : w.e.f. Nov. 1995 till date
in Punjab Civil Medical Service
Research papers Published
“Role of Programmed cell death in dental anomalies associated with cleft lip and Palate”. “Medical Hypotheses” Churchil Living Stone Publishers London-1991
Post traumatic polatoglossal adhesion, a case report stomatologica India (1990).
Research Project Undertakes
“Malocclusion and associated Factors among Delhi Children” a study sponsored by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Areas of Interest : Environment, Health, Defence, International Affairs and Rationalism