A weak and overcrowded public health system has led to the burgeoning private healthcare business across the country. But many of these hospitals are poorly regulated and expensive.
The Fortis hospital in Gurugram recently handed the family of a dead seven-year-old dengue patient an exorbitant bill for almost Rs 16 lakh after a fortnight of care. The bill allegedly included the costs for about 1,600 surgical gloves. Health minister J.P. Nadda has sought details of the case for the government to investigate.
Does the Fortis tragedy show that private healthcare is unaffordable even for the middle class?
Private health care is and will remain affordable. But we need to understand a few things. For all emergencies, it is the constitutional obligation of the state government under article 21 to provide emergent care to all.
For those who cannot afford, medium size hospitals are the answer, which are prized within the reach of a common man.
The so-called high-end hospitals are made mainly for those people who otherwise were inclined to get their treatment in UK or USA. They are not for common man having no reimbursement or insurance.
In the Fortis case, one must also understand it was not an emergency case; the patient was transferred from one private hospital to another higher private hospital with a life threatening dengue.
Here are other sharp perspectives on the issue of whether even the middle-class cannot afford privatised healthcare:
Amir Ullah Khan: is a professor of economics
Keshav Desiraju: former health secretary
Mira Shiva: public health activist
The family was given the daily bill. When the relatives come to a conclusion that their budget is not matching with the hospital expenses, they have a right to discuss with the hospital and get options.
No hospital can have a right to bill you when you have no money, they will have to give you options.
Also, money does not mean recovery. In fact, in ICU 85% will recover whatever you do and five will invariably die.
It’s the rest 10% for which doctors fight so that 5 out of those ten can survive. But in the case of these ten patients, if all efforts are made, the bill can be sky high.
The unfortunate thing is that the five who survive will say the doctors are God, and the five who die will say doctors have looted them.
Let’s have faith in medical profession and let’s not target the medical profession.
But at the same time, every patient has a right to know in detail about treatment and the expenses. They also have a right for the redressel mechanism.
Dr K.K. Aggarwal, National President Indian Medical Association and Heart Care Foundation of India