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Force MPs to use government hospitals
Government hospitals are in a terrible state but forcing Indian MPs to get treated there could be the beginning of actual change

Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh died on 14 August 2012 after suffering from critical illness and kidney and liver failure at Global Hospital (a privately run multi-organ transplant centre), Chennai. God rest his soul, but one wonders why Mr. Deshmukh wasn’t admitted to a government hospital for recovery? Was it because of a ready acceptance that government hospitals in India are nothing but a pathetic and shameful set of institutions existing purely to add to the corruption quagmire in India than to provide world-class health care facilities to patients, especially poor?

Of course, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s medical treatment in US and her routine checkups there could be attributed to the fact that she might have an urgent need to keep her medical conditions private. It’s unfortunate that 700 million Indians living below or just around the poverty line cannot afford to entertain either such lavish ambitions or destinations.

Similar is the case with P. Chidambaram, evidently with quite a lesser need for privacy than Mrs. Gandhi, who was admitted to Apollo Hospital recently for a laparoscopy procedure. Sir, would not your surgery have been better at, say, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, a government hospital in Delhi, which now has even had to employ professional ‘bouncers’ to protect their clearly inefficient medical staff from the relatives of patients who’ve been shortchanged or even maimed. No, Mr. Chidambaram, the nation needs you. Please continue not using government hospitals.

The examples are unending, how leading politicians and MPs specifically avoid getting their requisite operations conducted in their own government hospitals. But what about those MPs brave enough to employ the famed services of these institutions? Well, the courageous Union Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur in July this year, after visiting Rajindra Hospital, a government hospital in Patiala, Punjab, was clearly shocked beyond expectations. She subsequently beseeched the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Badal to improve the disturbing conditions existing in the hospital. Similar was the case with Minister for Water Supply and Sanitation Laxmanrao Dhoble, who valiantly went to a government civil hospital in Chandrapur.

The Wall Street Journal wrote last year about India’s utterly caustic government hospitals, “Overall, the nation’s vast, government-run health system can be a dangerous place. Hospitals are decades out of date, short-staffed and filthy. Patients frequently sleep two to a bed. The Indian government invests only 1% of gross domestic product in health care, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Only seven countries spend less.” A report conducted by WHO in 2008 on healthcare sorted countries by their total expenditure on health at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) per capita, and as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The report ranks India at 145th position, which is behind countries like Sudan, Mongolia and Yemen to name a few.
As the government readies itself to introduce Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the 12th Plan to drastically improve the lives of Indians, the goal can only be achieved when the political classes who brand themselves as representatives of the people get their treatments done in government hospitals. In fact, it could even be made mandatory!

This way, not only can our MPs lead by example, but they can also have a firsthand experience of the jaundiced government setups. Once they face the music themselves, the motivation to make things better will be only too real.

By:- Ganesh Kumar Roy

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