Thursday, May 26, 2011


Health cost pushes millions into poverty.

While my dad was struggling with his sudden multi–organ failure (septicemia), along with us there was another lady struggling for her husband to recover from the deadly dengue in the same nursing home. Though she was fortunate that she could get her husband admitted in that nursing home – as nursing home policy did not allow critical patients to be admitted, particularly the ones suffering from dengue. As dengue has high degree of fatality, and the nursing home didn't want anything to damage their track record! My dad was admitted for around ten days and was under constant life support. Still doctors' efforts and our prayer never got answered.

But within these 10 days that we were there, I saw this lady putting every penny that she had, on the treatment of her husband, with the only hope that she would be able to get him back home, one day! So first, it was her meagre savings that got exhausted, then it was her jewellery, and then finally it was the only piece of land that she could mortgage to some private money lender at an obscene interest rate. And while she was doing all these, I kept wondering what if, even aft er all these, she fails to take her husband back home? What happens to her? How would she ever be able to recover from the huge debt that she has been incurring? This state of a dark and scary future actually made me ask her why didn’t she go to any government hospital for the treatment as then she could have at least saved herself from the expenses. And her answer was that her struggle for getting her husband admitted would have taken away his life. Her answer summarised the state of public health infrastructure of our country. And mind you, I am talking of Delhi here! One can imagine what could be the state of affairs in other parts of the country.

In another similar incident happened recently wherein there was this man who got completely devastated saving her daughter's life as she had suffered a memory loss aft er falling down from the stairs. Here I am referring to my cab driver, who drops me and picks me up from the airport and after availing his services for more than a year I realised that aft er putting almost 12 to 18 hours of driving everyday, without a single off , he manages to make anywhere between Rs.15,000 to Rs.20,000 a month. He managed to recover his daughter’s memory but at the cost of Rs.1,00,000 – completely eroding his savings that he had struggled to accrue over years and pushing him into huge debt. These days he drives for 24 hours at a stretch to pay back the debt and tells me that he wishes if there were few more hours in a day.

These are just two cases out of thousands that take place across the country on a daily basis. The World Bank says that health expenses are the single most reason to push millions of Indians below the poverty line every year. And what is shameful is that knowing the state of the public health, the governments both at the state and at the centre, have perpetually fallen short of deliverables. Neither they have succeeded in providing any form of social infrastructure but failing to provide basic health to its citizens is absolutely unpardonable. It is even more shameful when private entrepreneurs have shown that proffering health facilities to masses does not require huge investments but a desire to make health services uniform and inclusive. The governments have even failed to provide social security in terms of health covers which could have at least saved millions from selling their jewellery, and land, or work for inhuman hours to save the lives of their near and dear ones!


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