… But not of Paris and London; this tale is about Hyderabad and ….
It was a lovely evening at Deepanwita and Pinaki’s flat in Hyderabad. The time was March/April in 2006, shortly before the West Bengal state assembly elections that year. Besides the hosts, there were two of us: one of their friends, who shall bear the name Alapon here, and me.
At the dining table, we had an animated discussion about the coming elections. There was much excitement: politics can be as intoxicating as any alcoholic beverage, particularly for Bongs. And Alapon, a thin, almost emaciated man in his fifties, was an interesting company. It was past midnight when Pinaki and I saw off Alapon as he took off on his rickety scooter, and retired to our respective homes.
At 4.30 next morning, Pinaki received a phone call from another city. It was a common friend of theirs from Bangalore: Alapon had met with an accident on his way home. A police patrol van had discovered a bleeding unconscious man and his battered scooter, and admitted him to the nearest hospital, Yashoda Hospital in Alexander Road, Secunderabad. The first phone number on Alapon’s cell phone was that of the friend in Bangalore; the police had called him up.
At 5 AM, a receptionist at Yashoda Hospital in Alexander Road informed Pinaki that as they did not have the facilities to treat head injury, they had transferred the patient to the Somajiguda unit of the same hospital.
And the Somajiguda hospital there did these things. The doctor in charge of emergencies arranged for a CT scan as soon as the patient was brought in. He noticed indications of brain damage on the scanned images and the hospital called up a senior neuro-surgeon – I think his name was Dr. Ramamoorthy – from his sleep. Dr. Ramamoorthy examined Alapon at 4.30 in the morning and the hospital was preparing to conduct an emergency surgery when Pinaki and other friends arrived on the scene.
Alapon was saved, thanks to some alert policemen and an unbelievably wonderful hospital.
But why do I recall the story after three years?
One evening in August 2009, a young woman went to a well-known private hospital in Kolkata with a splitting headache. The doctors got a CT scan done at about 8 in the same evening. They found something wrong and got her admitted. They told her husband that the CT images would be examined by a specialist the next morning.
A neurologist saw the images at 11 next morning and she was taken for surgery immediately. There was further haemorrhage while the surgery was being conducted; she survived, narrowly.
What was it that made a private hospital in Hyderabad do everything that could be done for an unknown patient even when they did not know who would foot the bill? And what is it that makes a Kolkata hospital wait for 15 long, potentially killing hours after a scan indicates serious issues? Was anyone taken to task for this criminal negligence? I know not.
And this is not one of the much maligned government hospitals of the city. It is supposed to be one of the best, and certainly one of the costliest. Moreover, this hospital has a tie-up with a well-known Chennai based hospital, where many patients from Kolkata go for treatment. How can an organization that runs smoothly in Chennai botch things up so horribly in Kolkata?
I know, presenting chosen examples is not is hardly the right way to prove a point. But if you ask ten persons who have dealt with hospitals in Hyderabad and ten more, who have in Kolkata, I bet you will find that my examples represent the overall scenario quite well.
After seeing numerous instances of colossal inefficiency and lack of commitment, morbid disdain for patients/clients, and crass negligence in the healthcare industry in particular and the service sector in general, I wonder if something is intrinsically wrong with Bengal. We have forgotten how to serve.
The situation must change, although no one knows how it will. Perhaps we need social reformers of the stature of Ram Mohun Roy and Swami Vivekananda, but that is not in our hands. The least that one can, and must try to do, is to do well whatever one does. Is that too tall an order?
Kolkata, 15 September 2009