02 July 2010
On average, a ‘busy’ doctor spends just a couple of minutes for every consultation costing a patient Rs 300–500. This expense is followed by a considerable amount spent on a host of diagnostic investigations and medicines, many of them unwarranted, say activists studying the trend.
"Even without asking the patient’s history, doctors start prescribing a battery of investigations," says Dr L Murlidhar, president, Jana Vignana Vedika. The almost cut and dry attitude of strapped–for–time doctors is resulting in patients getting a raw deal.
Activists say that when a case is taken up, it is the duty of the doctor to give attention but this is not happening since doctors end up seeing at least a 100 cases from morning till late night. "With many hospitals having half a dozen branches, doctors are hopping from one branch to another. Besides, they run clinics too. Government hospitals are overloaded. In this scenario, patients are being taken for a ride," says N Ganesan, vice president, Consumer Care Centre, Narayanguda.
Ganesan further states that almost all the hospitals refuse to give records of treatment to patients at the time of discharge, which is their right. "This is being done because they are afraid of being pulled up for negligence," adds Ganesan.
Health industry observers point out that doctors busy with their practice have no time for remaining posted to latest developments in the field of medicine. "Continuing medical education is now in the form of seminars and conferences organised by pharma companies and doctors totally depend on medical representatives to learn about new drugs in the market,’’ says a senior health industry observer.
Doctors themselves admit that unethical practices have penetrated every segment of medical practice starting from the entry into a medical school. Take for instance, the referral nexus prevailing among doctors wherein they crossrefer patients to each other, offering a cut for each patient referred. Dr K Raghuram, director, Ushalakshmi Centre for Breast Diseases, says that the practice of the art and science of medicine has become a vicious cycle that revolves round "sleazy, corrupt and immoral practices’’ much against medical ethics. "If the body (Medical Council of India) set up to regulate us is corrupt, who will regulate the doctors," adds Dr Raghuram.
However, Dr K Ramesh Reddy, secretary, AP Junior Doctors Association, disagrees saying that it is a misconception that doctors are not able to give enough time to patients. But at the same time Dr Reddy adds, "There are black sheep in every profession. The medical profession has not been spared of them."
Citizen activist VBJ Chelikani Rao further notes it is for this reason that patients now "shop for doctors’’ and treatments. Activists and doctors suggest that strict enforcement of code of ethics is the only way to restore the medical profession’s lost glory.
In India, National Doctors’ Day is annually celebrated on July 1, to commemorate the famous medical personality Dr B C Roy. He also served as the chief minister of West Bengal.