Thursday, September 23, 2021

Bad treatment

Editorial 2

A walk through any government hospital in Nagaland will reveal the gross shortcoming in our healthcare delivery system. Distraught, confused, miserable patients and their attendants wait in endless queues; get tossed from room to room and get lost in the spirals of procedures they have no idea about. We know that in our villages, almost all healthcare needs of the people are met by government health centres, as there are no private players there. It caters to rural populace needs for pediatric health, geriatrics, maternity, accidents, emergencies, non communicable diseases and infectious diseases. There government hospitals are the mainstay for consultations, admissions and diagnostics. We have heard of patients in dilapidated government health centres in rural areas as well as in district hospitals lament and shout about insufficiencies on every front. The insufficiency inevitably leads to inefficiency, patient care getting compromised in every step. Take for instance, the district hospitals in Dimapur and Kohima, perhaps the two most frequented government hospitals in our state. The OPD registration counters and the OPD rooms are a source of untold distress and miseries to patients. The number of patients queuing outside OPD registration counters is over capacity on any given day. The waiting areas of the hospital are always full during OPD hours, the benches all occupied, and tired, frail patients and elderly sit on the pavements and corridors waiting to hear their names being called in the ocean of people. In the doctors’ rooms, a group of patients is seen simultaneously, quickly. An extra question or a query from the patient can invite trouble from the doctor on duty, who has the crowd in mind while he or she is checking up the individual. The patients are rushed in and rushed out as many are waiting outside and scenes of impatience, unruliness and indiscipline are the order on any given day. The overcrowding has led to compromise in the quality of care. In government institutions, out of pocket expenditure is quite substantial as patients have to purchase medicines and other essential items from the market. This entails a huge burden on poor households. The condition of civic facilities is worse. Broken latches of toilets, blocked hoses of washrooms, broken taps, leaking pipes, overflowing sewers, clogged sinks and stinking atmosphere speaks about the success of infection control measures put in place in most government health centres. Sure much is being done to increase bed capacity, the intensive care and the diagnostic paraphernalia in our hospitals. But first of all, hospitals here need decongestion. Hospitals need repair and restoration. It needs benches, wheelchairs and signage. Our hospitals need more manpower to improve healthcare delivery. The patients definitely deserve better than what they are getting now – they deserve a comfortable and dignified experience. Ideally healthcare and education should be an exclusive concern of the government. These are the two sectors that come under universal, essential public services. No one can avoid the two services, so the government should, ideally speaking, make arrangements for that. But there is always a gap between the real and the ideal; and this gap, in our state, when we talk of healthcare, is just huge. These build a case for private player in the health sector. Of course, we need better facilities for our people. We need required number of beds, latest diagnostic equipment, more human resource. We know government cannot provide us all we require. Hence it is axiomatic that private players should do the needful. But there should be proper monitoring. Healthcare is a compulsion; no one is as helpless as he is when sick. In such a desperate situation it becomes easier for unscrupulous elements to exploit people. Here we need to invoke a public awareness, and government vigilance. The element of exploitation in the private healthcare sector should be eliminated to the possible extent. Those who are in this sector should participate voluntarily in making it just, humane, and affordable. We need a policy to improve how patients are treated in hospitals, not just their diseases, but themselves. Our healthcare sector might have won awards at the national level; now it needs to win the hearts of poor and desperate patients.