©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The whole family was happily relishing the desserts after a sumptuous dinner, when Mr. Shah suddenly went blank. His eyes rolled up, and he started having violent movements of his body. His daughter Amira shouted “Mom, call the emergency ambulance number” and tried to comfort her father who was now in a full blown convulsion, blood oozing from a corner of his mouth with froth.
The ambulance came with the paramedics. The driver handed Mrs. Shah a cellphone: “Please enter his Aadhar card and Insurance policy number, we will take care of everything” he said.
They collected a drop of blood, which would give all the necessary information about the patient. A video scanned the patient and recorded history and legal statements of the family members. The sugar level was high.
“Was he given sweets? asked the paramedic.
“Yes” said Mrs. Shah.
“Did you take permission from the government? He is a diabetic, sweets are illegal” the paramedic said.
Amira pulled out a big pink note from her purse.
“Listen, please delete that video. Please take another clip, Mom doesn’t know, I will speak” she said. The attendant agreed. His salary had been halved since the pandemic.
They reached the nearest hospital in few minutes. The nurses hooked the patient with various tubes and told the relatives to wait in a counselling room. The patient appeared stable now. “This is really cool. India has made such great progress” Amira said to her sweating mother.
After a few minutes a Doctor on the TV screen greeted them, and explained them that Mr. Shah had developed bleeding in his brain. Interrupting the doctor, Mrs. Shah, sobbing, asked if her husband will be out of danger. Amira too, very anxious, asked many questions. The doctor replied very pleasantly “Just after this video call, you will see a video of all the likely things that can go wrong in your patient’s case. You will also be provided interactive links like a telephone menu, to ask any questions you want, the answers are scientifically standard. All treatment and billing is standardised”.
In a fit of anger, Amira loudly asked “But doctor, we want to see you and speak with you. When will you visit the patient?”.
Smiling, the doctor replied “Oh! Sorry, but we abolished that practice long ago. We don’t directly meet thee relatives now. For every patient, we give you the diagnosis and condition, all the information is made available on the internet, you can read for yourself.”
Mrs. Shah took out the Bramhastra “But we are paying your fees. You must answer and explain to us. You must be available for the patient all the time”.
The Doctor’s smile now became distant and curt.
“No madam. The law requires that I see the patient every day and treat him / her well, which I will continue. The insurance company and the hospital to whom you pay require me to visit the patient only once in 24 hours, which I will do. I am supposed to inform you, which I just did. You are paying the hospital and the insurance company for my services, from which they both cut some amount and pay me, you are not buying my time or me. You are free to request to change the doctor, or for a second opinion at an extra cost. The government has now made it mandatory to treat the patient at the hospital that they will decide, unless you are a special category. There is nothing like personal care now, everything is standardised by the ministry. We have a PRO who can assist you with searching all the information you need”.
Amira, wiser to the world, asked directly, in a cautious, lower pitch “Doc, what can we do to get your direct services? We can pay anything you want. We want you to personally see my father, make all the treatment decisions, and we also want to speak with you daily, in person. Do you have a private hospital? Please, I beg of you, have some compassion”.
The Doctor paused with a sad face, then said in a more personal tone “ I am sorry mam, all private healthcare has been abolished in India. . Many relatives attacked and injured doctors, most spoke in an abusive, rude manner, many wasted our precious time with illogical, repetitive and absurd questions. So the unnecessary was eliminated . During the pandemic of 2020, doctors were abused by our society so badly, that many died, many left either the profession or the country. Now the number of doctors is very low, We have a wild, abusive society that swings between begging for compassion and free treatment to violently attacking doctors. So all hospitals are now controlled by the government, and all doctors just follow the treatment recommendations set by the government. Even the brands and quality of medicines, stents, instruments for each patient are decided by the government, according to that patient’s category”
Mr. Shah’s condition was worsening day by day. Once every day, Amira received updates about her father via a lengthy SMS, with advertisements of big business houses, who had access to every data in the country. Nothing was private anymore.
Amira asked the PRO one day “What happens to the poor patients who don’t have money?”
The PRO smiled in disdain. “There are special insurance schemes and different stadium-hospitals for them. They have the same system, but low cost everything, including medical staff. Those who cannot afford even basic insurance are sent a CD of patriotic songs and motivating sermons. After the pandemic, this has emerged as the most cost effective way of healthcare.”
“What if I want to take my father outside India for treatment?” asked Amira, now fed up with all the robotic answers. All human touch in medicine was lost.
The PRO looked at her in awe. “Are you in Politics? Are you super-rich like celebrities? Because taking someone out of India for medical treatment is reserved only for them, or those who have special links”.
Every morning, Amira and her mother went to a temple and prayed. One day, Amira asked the doctor: “Doctor, what if this was your father. Would you do the same?”
The doctor replied “Mam, My father died because I was posted in the pandemic ward. He was a high risk case but I did not get exemption. I think I am already doing far more for your father than I did for mine”.
On the fifth day, Mr Shah woke up. In a week’s time, he was scheduled for a discharge. Arguing about the hospital bills or complaining about the treatment with the insurance company or the government was now considered anti-national, so she carefully remained silent and paid all the bills, right from that for the first drop of blood collected at home and the ambulance. The pandemic tax and GST almost doubled every bill. Everything was authentic and standardised.
On the day of his discharge, a political leader came over, and a picture was taken with Mr. Shah. “Recovered due to the untiring efforts of the party and the government” said the newspaper the next morning.
On the way home, Mr. Shah told Amira “That doctor was fantastic. When will we see him again?”
Amira replied “I don’t know. The government will assign a doctor for you to follow up now”.
Mrs. Shah looking far away, said “At the temple every morning, I prayed for two things: for your health and for return of the good old days of personal relations with our doctors”.
©️ Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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Much of this is happening right now. This is the foreseeable unavoidable future.