Andrew Heanngam Pamei
At the very outset, let me acquaint you that I’m just a committed dilettante and not a prolific writer, ergo efficacious delineation of the grimy visage of government medical healthcare system in this state is perhaps beyond my intellectual wherewithal. Having said that I will not withhold myself from drafting this write-up, for my very own self had been struck by an uncalled-for traumatic experience after being affronted by some unethical, narcissistic, solipsistic and avaricious physicians with half-baked medical cognizance on my week-long stay as a caretaker of my ailing father at a government hospital. Mayhap you’ll bust me down to someone inapt to draft this article, by derogating me as someone not medically trained or perhaps as someone not well grounded on medical ethics to critique mannerism or quiddity of the so-called Medical Officers employed in a government hospital. Albeit I’ve no desired credential for this, but as an ordinary citizen of the country having guaranteed the fundamental right by our well established constitution under article 21- “Right to life” which encompasses “Right to health”, and “Freedom of speech and expression” under article 19, let me succinctly get bogged down into a chain of appalling, abhorrent and obnoxious events as to how a poverty-stricken ordinary citizen is being neglected, gets deprived of human kindness and mistreated as a second class citizen at a government hospital in one of the north-eastern states of the world’s largest democracy.
It all started in one winter morning after a good scrumptious breakfast, a frightfully fierce pang shot through my father’s right abdomen. Audaciously heartening that the pain would abate, he tried to becalm himself by lying down on the couch, yet, to no avail reached a point where any physical movement was near-to-impossible. With knackered eye he was groaning with agony, and to make the matter worse, he was wheezing with every breathe he took. So, without further ado, we braced up for treatment in a government hospital, which is also a regionally renowned medical institute.
Ironically, a conundrum dawned on day one of the treatment. A surgery doctor on examining my ailing father perceived an obdurate acute pain, so, an analgesic injection was administered right at that moment. After which the doctor advised for a diagnosis to be done, not in the premise of the hospital but outside, in a private diagnostics center. The conundrum lies in the fact that we are impecunious and to visit a private diagnostics center means spending thousands of bucks and moreover the agonizing pain of my father which already reached a point where even a slight physical movement was near-to-impossible had to find a means to reach the diagnostics center, which could perhaps be a very afflictive experience. But, diagnosis being a sine qua non for further treatment, with great difficulty he managed to at least reach that private diagnostics center. Forsooth! I could see through his bleary eyes; afflictive experience that was for him. He was diagnosed with “Acute Cholecystitis” and was admonished to get hospitalized for few days. Here, one thing that bamboozled and flabbergasted me most is that, how could such a conspicuous hospital, that too a regionally renowned medical institute not equip with required X-ray and ultrasound machine for diagnosis? Or perhaps is it because the physicians are radically rapacious that they dare to overlook the status of the agonizing patients and deliberately refer to private diagnostics centers just for their sordid gains?
On physician’s counsel, my father got admitted in the casualty section. On spur of moment, I caught sight of a patient vacating his bed, so, we decided to settle there. In fact, I was quite sanguine and anticipated physicians with redoubtable medical cognizance. I held them in high regards hoping that they’re well qualified, erudite, kind and compassionate. But obverse to this audacity of hope, inclement visage of physicians started to unfold. As my father reclined on the bed with an IV drip, I tried to settle things down running to and fro orchestrating with the nurses on how to go about with prescribed drugs. While I was bustling and orchestrating I saw a Medical Officer with escorts moving towards my father. All of a sudden he started ferociously yelling and I heard some nasty, harsh and unkind words which belittles my father. Then I left a bag of medicine with the nurse and encountered the officer. There I found that he was furious just because of some empty snacks cover left behind by a whilom patient beside the bed my father was sleeping. Imagine! My father just got admitted in the hospital, lying there with an IV drip unable to move or reply with throes of agony. What do you think he might have went through at that moment of debilitation, when doctors instead of healing, inflict him with excruciating mental and emotional injury just for that trivial matter? Never before had I envisaged that a physician would be unethical, scurrilous, brusque and solipsistic in dealing with a patient.
A very daunting incident transpired again. That was in surgery ward where a young intern approached my ailing father to monitor Blood Pressure and draw blood for haemoglobin test. Then he told me to take the storage tube which contains blood sample to a private diagnostics center. As I reached the diagnostics center, to my surprise, they repudiated it saying the storage tube containing blood sample was erroneous for the test and so they sent me back to the intern with another compatible empty storage tube for blood sample to be collected and thus drew out blood for the second time. Baffled and confounded by this denial, I spent that day with a mix feeling of sadness and anger. Had that intern been chaperoned by an experienced physician or a nurse, nothing of this discombobulation would have happened. Medical fraternity needs to be sentient of the fact that a patient getting admitted in a hospital doesn’t mean that patient signed up to be treated in any manner which could jeopardize a person’s dignity or to bend to all the whims and fancies of the trainees with half-baked medical cognizance. And I have no qualm in saying that these puerile treatments have become a normal state of affairs in govt. hospitals of our state resulting to silly mistakes and this needs to be looked into.
Yet again at the wee hours, as my father was in deep slumber, I espied the IV drip which was infused in his right hand slipped off causing a teensy affliction by the IV cannula. I witnessed blood exuding from veins, so at that split second I stopped the IV drip and went to call the nurses stationed there. I hastened straight to their station, but only to find a hushed vacant room with some scattered files on the table. At that moment of helplessness, all that I’m left with was a piece of cotton to clutch the wound from further bleeding and I waited till the dawn. When I recounted this incident to a nurse who came tardy in the morning, she blithely replied that she was in deep slumber in her room. Then she switched the incomplete IV drip bottle with a new one, changed the IV cannula, she warned me not to disclose it to the consultant physician and left as if like nothing happened. Although I was told not to disclose, I cogitated I should remonstrate about it to the consultant physician when the rounds arrived. But, believe me the rounds were the worst. The caretakers of the patients were belched from the room and were not given a chance to utter a word. I’m told by my ailing father that during the rounds, the physicians with flock of trainees had a play of medical jargon among themselves and evanesced within a minute like puffs of smoke. To such an extent my father was neglected by the medical staff of that govt. hospital. Truth be told, in that govt. hospital I didn’t find a strong physician-patient relationship, which is in fact the foundation of contemporary medical ethics.
The last straw that broke camel’s back was on the 7th day when we were waiting for a final physician’s round with medical leave certificate handy. By that time my father was convalescing and he could walk around a little. Howbeit I was told to leave the room by a paramedic, I hesitated and stood beside my father’s bed. Then a senior physician whom younger physicians addressed ‘sir’ came and grabbed the medical leave certificate from my father’s hand, he glimpsed it and said, “You are not suffering from Acute Cholecystitis, yours is E.coli”, and without expounding further, he left. So, I was dumbfounded and stupefied by his statement which contradicts the diagnosis report. I’m told that E.coliare bacteria present in the intestine and as far as the diagnostic report is concerned, there’s no eventuality that my father would be suffering from E.coli although it could be one of the causes for secondary infection.
Having encountered physicians who were incompetent of getting their facts straight, I extrapolated they must have been carrying out wrong treatment since day one. Because, how could a physician be able to prescribe drugs for cure with that vacuous cognizance of his patient’s illness? It just doesn’t make sense. In situation such as this, I’d like to supplicate physicians to abide by the pledge in the Hippocratic Oath which says,”I will remember that there is an art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist drug. I will not be ashamed to say ‘I know not’ nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.” After a week-long bafflement and exasperation, we left that hospital with lachrymal eyes and a rueful sigh.
As I wind up this write-up, I’d like to gently entreat physicians to reckon their medical profession not just as a job but as a service called to serve humanity with love, humility, compassion and kindness. And to all the physicians out there, when remedying a patient, may this excerpt from the Hippocratic Oath guide you through; “(Latin:…noxamvero et maleficiumpropulsabo”) meaning, “ I will utterly reject harm and mischief.” With a very heavy heart I drafted this article. God bless.
(The writer is a student of Delhi University. He can be reached at [email protected])
Andrew Heanngam Pamei