Monday, July 31, 2006

HRD, Doctors in Government Hospitals, Delhi

This is to recall an incident in which I was offered very poor service by some physicians in government hospitals in Delhi. The series of incidents that is narrated below happened between 22nd June 2006 and 29th June, the day we flew to Rome.

In order to avail the visa to Italy all the selected candidates had to submit a medical certificate with results of various Medical tests shown separately. We had a very limited time, a time period of just one week. In the proforma given by Ministry of Human Resource Development it was written that the certificate must be signed by a civil surgeon or a district medical officer. Are you someone who strive hard to fulfill the requirements in a notification from any government office. If so, you are gravely mistaken like me, who found out during the medical certification process that one primarily has to find out the way by which the requirements can be befooled. I want to focus on three aspects of mismanagement, which is also a cause of public inconvenience, in this article. One is about misleading information given to you by public offices, the second about irresponsibility, callousness, or lack of human consideration or whatever you may like to call it and finally the third is about the delay in official matters.

I still did not understand why the final correspondence from HRD, which asked us to undergo medical check-up, was so delayed that the candidates got hardly one week to complete all formalities before applying for the visa. This delay affected us all along our journey procedures to Italy. For example, since the visa was delayed, we could not buy our ticket to Rome in proper time. One of my friends and me travelled together to Perugia and we found it extremely difficult to get a ticket in economic class in Kuwait Airways. Finally we had to settle for a ticket which cost each of us Rs. 6000/- more than the actual ticket rate. All our tensions vis-à-vis medical check up, visa application and finally air-ticket purchase would have been relieved had the communication from HRD was done sufficiently earlier.

After receiving the letter from HRD, I went to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital looking for a civil surgeon, with just one week's time to complete all formalties. The civil surgeon in RML Hospital was on leave for a weak or so. I went to Safdarjung Hospital. I was told by the CMO that there is no one with this designation in the hospital. I went to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital. I was blatantly stopped by the attendent who stood at the gate of Doctor Incharge (Casualty). Though I managed to get into the doctor's chamber after an exchange of words betwen him, I was disappointed by the doctor who asked me "Why should I do it? (why should I examine you?)" This was a question that resonated in my ears for a long time after I left the chamber. I shall discuss about this in the next paragraph. This was my third day of medical certificate hunt. Later on I went back to HRD Scholarship section and told the officials that I could not find a Civil Surgeon who is willing to issue a medical certificate to me. They told me that any MBBS doctor in a government hospital will do. I had lost three precious days looking for a civil surgeon. If any MBBS doctor in a government hospital would have done this job why didn't the Scholarship section of HRD tell me about this earlier. Such misleading information is not new to us, I know. But I got the actual taste of it only in these days. Everyone is so generous to give you misleading information, without thinking how it would affect the person negatively. I wasted much of my time and energy while following the instructions given by officials in HRD, in government hospitals in Delhi and seldom by my friends.

The candidates for the scholarship were not referred to any hospitals in Delhi to get the tests done. I consider this to be a serious lapse from the part of Ministry of Human Resource and Development because no government doctor was obliged to examine us and issue a medical certificate. "Why should I do it" was the response from many of the doctors: in Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital and from other government hospitals in the city as well... I would not blame these doctors. "Why should I do it" which means am I obliged to examine a person (stranger) and give him a medical certificate if the government has not asked me to do it! I have shown all the papers from Human Resource Development office in which it is written that it is mandatory for me to produce a medical certificate to get an NOC for visa. But "why should I do it?" was the response from the government hospital doctors. Can I ask these doctors an ethical question? When the medical/public health care department runs a campaign for blood donation or eye donation if the people start asking "Why should I do it?" will it be wrong?

Often I was told by the officials in these hospitals that you will not be issued a medical certificate from this hospital because you are not referred by the concerned government office while many of my friends, who had won the same scholarship, easily walked away with their medical certificates. How? They had approached the doctors whom they knew. The doctors allowed my friends to get all tests done from the same government hospitals in which the former work, of course with a nominal fees. One of my friends just had to pay approximately Rs.250/- for all the prescribed medical tests including the AIDS test. No doctor in any government hospital in Delhi was known to me. I ran from pillar to post. People, my friends, asked me, without knowing the real state of affairs, "Didn't you go to Safdarjung?" "Didn't you go to AIIMS?" as if they know it for sure that someone is sitting there to issue a medical certificate for a 'stranger' like me. In somebody else's affairs people are so casual to offer suggestions, because suggetions are free. I went everywhere and did not get a result. I asked the doctors in JNU medical centre whether they can help me in this regard. No result.

Four complete days wasted for availing medical certificate, and still with complete uncertainity ahead. Am I in the national capital of India or in a remote viallge in the country, I doubted. On the fifth day I decided to get the tests done in a private pathology Lab. I paid Rs.850/- for the tests thinking that it would bring an end to everything. But the next day, when the certificate got signed by the director or the pathology lab, who was also the Medical Superintendent of a three star private hospital, they asked me Rs.300/- consultation charges. Rs. 1250/-that is the end of it.

Now the rest is from my subconscious mind, for I am not going to fight against the mismanagement of matters in HRD (as I perceive them) or against the inhumanity of some doctors in government hospitals in Delhi (again, as I perceive them). But all the authorities can feel assured: "You have conditioned a citizen to behave in a particular way in the future, and one can easily infer how the behaviour would be if one has really understood the experience he has gone through."

This narration is saved for the future. Our memory may lie but not the computer chips.

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