The Bard of Stratford Upon Avon, Shakespeare wrote the words in italics chosen for the caption of today’s column, while presenting the character Shylock, the uncompromising money-lender in Merchant of Venice. Demanding his pound of flesh from his truant borrower made Shylock the sinner in the verdict of some critics while some others felt he was more sinned against. Placing the privately practicing medical professionals in the position of Shylock in the play opens the ongoing debate on the exorbitant consultation fees demanded by doctors in addition to other sickness-care expenses such as charges by establishments of diagnostic test and the Hospital bills including payments to meet ward rentals, nursing services and so on, which have sky-rocketed. The Karnataka Government disturbed the hornet’s nest as it were while proposing to bring in legislation ostensibly to rein in the players in the system, namely the medicare sector juxtaposed to the population seeking sickness-care from hospitals privately managed.
In a manner of recapitulation, the long past era before allopathy entered the scene, the land’s people may be presumed to have followed a regimen of life based on eating unadulterated food and living in an ambience of zealously guarded sanitation, unlike the generation of our times, which disdainfully disregards the imperatives of taking liberties and environs. Without meaning either to cast aspersions on the present generation’s perception of the connect between health and living conditions or stereotyping the society of our times as a whole, one is prompted to remark that the mass marching to the doctor’s consultation room and then to the privately managed hospital is similar to the case of “Between the devil and the deep sea” oscillating between self-inflicted disease-burden and the only option of doctor-burden. Before taking a harsh view of the doctors and managements of private hospitals, including nursing homes as a separate entity from their counterparts in government establishments, one is obliged to take into account a few points. People are meeting the cash needs of government hospitals through coughing up taxes in a prepaid manner. Private hospitals, any day better equipped can ill-afford charity, needing cash to remain afloat.
Briefly, investment needed to groom boys and girls into doctors begins at 10+2 stage itself. The expenses of medical education cost a bomb. Specialisation in branches of medicine costs a virtual fortune. Doctors in government service get post-retirement benefits while private doctors don’t, including paid holidays and comfortable working conditions. The matter of seeking medicare centres on choosing between sarkari doctors and freelancing medical professionals. Why portray the latter as sinners?