Womb Removal: Andhra's Big Medical Scandal
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27 August 2010
By Uma Sudhir
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The poor tribal woman says, "Government doctors did not offer any solution. Not even an injection. So I went to a private doctor. The operation cost me Rs. 20,000. We had to take a loan for it."
Bhuli, another poor woman who was advised a hysterectomy, was told it was a Hobson’s choice. She could either get her uterus removed or die.
There are thousands of women like Roopli and Bhuli in villages across Andhra Pradesh. In a tribal hamlet in Medak district, for example, when asked how many have had a "pedda operation" or got their uterus removed, virtually every hand goes up.
All across Andhra Pradesh, thousands of expensive uterus removal surgeries are being performed in private clinics every year. What is most worrying is that 80 per cent of the women undergoing the surgery are between 20 and 40 years of age. These women then age faster with complications caused by hormonal imbalances and osteoporosis.
The government admits it has become a huge problem. Andhra Pradesh Health Minister D Nagender, says, "We are going to take action against all those nursing homes and hospitals that are performing unnecessary removal of uterus."
Andhra Pradesh records the highest number of such operations in the country. Its health insurance scheme for the poor, Arogyasree, has only made matters worse. Subhash, a health activist, says, "11,000 hysterectomies have happened in just 18 months under the government’s health insurance scheme for poor. Many more must be happening out there."
Statistics show that 98 per cent of these surgeries have happened in private, ill–equipped clinics. NDTV asked a medical representative at one such clinic whether it was true that private doctors were pushing women to undergo hysterectomy. Narsing Rao, the RMP says, "No, madam. I don’t agree. Specialist comes once a week and does the surgery. It is a social service we are doing. We are not forcing anyone."
All the women NDTV spoke to said they had not gone to a government health care centre because they did not get any care there. So the women got pushed to private doctors, who then performed the surgeries.