Thursday, January 19, 2012


Corruption in healthcare has multifarious social implications

Corruption is one word that has affected the very nervous system of the nation. It has not only affected the economy deeply but has also made the entire social system crippled. Among all, one sector that hits the entire society directly is healthcare, especially after the fact that more than 40 per cent of people are pushed below the poverty line every year due to out-of-pocket health expenditure.

Medical professionals not only inflate medical bills but also prescribe unnecessary medicine and tests in order to make money for the hospital. This was the very reason behind the strike (and resistance) led by insurance companies a few years back. For instance, private doctors conduct the TB antibody test (costing Rs 1500-2000 per tests) that cannot detect active TB just to inflate the medical bills. Even the latest TB policy of the WHO doesn’t prescribe such tests.

As per India Corruption Study 2010, around 39 per cent households felt that the level of corruption in hospital services had increased during the last one year. The study also found out that around 8.5 million households paid an amount of Rs 130 crore as bribe to avail hospital services like getting medicines, get examined as an out-patient and diagnostic services during the last one year. Another media sources revealed that corruption in government hospitals cost India more than Rs 2000 crore per year.

Government hospitals are in dire need of essential medicines and vaccines which are in short supply, to say the least. In UP, there is a considerable shortfall of antirabies vaccines even in prestigious hospitals. More so, there is absolute dearth of antibiotics and ARV in the hospitals of UP and other poor states. A new medicine supply contract, that portends health directorate officials to purchase the medicines and supply it to district hospitals as per demand, corroborated this mess. Additionally, the widespread usage and prevalence of counterfeit drugs further worsen the scenario. In the same light, International Policy Network in 2009 revealed that lack of effective regulatory system, market controls and widespread corruption are the main reasons behind the availability of fake drugs in India and China.

To top it all, whatever medicines are allocated for the various health schemes and government hospitals do not reach the end consumer due to rampant stealing of drugs. Delhi police had discovered medicines with the tag of 'Supply for Government of NCT of Delhi, Not for sale' and 'MCD supply, Not for Sale' worth Rs 60 lakh from two pharmacists, including the head pharmacist of Hedgewar Hospital, in April last year. In an another incident, a month back, Delhi Police arrested seven medical staffs who were involved in an organised racket of siphoning off medicines, worth around Rs 30 lakhs, from Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) and selling it in the open market.

The series of medical scandals are still thriving because of existing nexus between corrupt medical professionals and bureaucrats. The involvement of bureaucrats and politicians in Kidney racket and organ trade are case in point. On the hindsight, corruption in healthcare may look discreet but is actually funded and facilitated through opaque red-tapism and corrupt bureaucracy. This is one sector which should have been the lifeline of millions, is today deemed as blood-sucking parasite that is surviving at the cost of million lives.



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