KATHMANDU, July 15: A few incidents that happened in the medical sector in the last few months speak volumes about the anomalies dogging the country's medical sector. The latest incident happened at the Manmohan Hospital in the capital. The incident is allegedly related to the doctors at the hospital removing the kidney of a patient who was operated for removal of kidney stones.
What happened was that on a fine normal day a patient from Nuwakot was admitted to the hospital to undergo an operation for the removal of the kidney stones. OK, the doctors operated on the patient and removed the stone. The patient is discharged from the hospital after remaining there for a few days. The hospital and the patient are all happy for the successful operation.
But on another fine day, some days after his discharge from the hospital, the patient holds a news conference and alleges the doctors of taking out his kidney without his or his family's consent. The media splashes the story and it turns out into a big medical scandal. As per the hospital's side of the story, the doctors had to extract the kidney as there was heavy bleeding from the organ which could be life-threatening. And this they did with the full consent of the patient's close relative. The patient and his family would not buy into this argument and started a hunger strike demanding hefty amount in compensation from the hospital, including free education to the patient's children, job to the patient and his wife at the hospital and life insurance coverage to the patient.
As of now, the government has formed an investigation committee to look into the incident and bring out the truth.
This is but one incident in a series of incidents that took place in many hospitals in the capital and outside, which allegedly happened due to the supposed negligence of the doctors or the hospital management.
Some two months back, the death of a 38-year-old woman at Nagarik Hospital at Gaththaghar, Bhaktapur sparked a rioting by the victim's relatives. They vandalized the hospital and also manhandled one of the hospital staff, blaming the hospital's negligence for the woman's death. According to the deceased woman's husband, she complained of abdomen pain during morning walk and was brought to the hospital immediately. But she died some hours later. Such incidents have happened before at Norvic, Neuro and Everest hospitals in the capital.
There are many such incidents of physicians or medical staff getting beaten up by the patient's side blaming them for the death of a near and dear one or negligence in providing timely and proper treatment or not referring the patient to other advanced hospitals. Such incidents of vandalism at hospitals are a matter of serious concern for the medial fraternity, the people and the government. Such incidents of vandalism and anarchy at hospitals have instilled a fear psychosis among the docs and medical staff. The complaints of doctors and medical staff having to work under an insecure environment have indeed increased of late.
Time for operation of medical sector
The time has come for all the stakeholders - the state, citizen and medical fraternity - to seriously ponder as to why such incidents are taking place in the first place. People go to hospital as the last resort seeking treatment and getting a lease of life at moments between life and death. Where will the people go if the place where they have placed their highest trust turns out to be the opposite? This has emerged as a burning question these days. When the patients treat the doctors as 'god' and their saviours, it is incumbent upon the doctors and the medical community to keep alive this trust and the dignity of their profession.
It may be recalled here that Dr. Govinda KC, senior orthopaedic surgeon at the TU Teaching Hospital, has launched a crusade of sorts to free the country's medical sector, especially the medical education sector, from all the infections of anomalies that it suffers today. He has launched fast-unto-death scores of times, calling for reforms in the entire medical sector. The government, bowing to public pressure, has also signed agreement with this tenacious doctor promising to fulfil his demands, only to be forgotten once he lifts his fast-unto death. Such is the government's apathy on matters of urgent public concerns in our country. The past several incidents vindicate to that fact that many of the issues raised by Dr. KC are genuine. The uncontrolled manner in which universities give affiliations to medical colleges to run hospitals and the high cost of medical education may be some of the reasons behind hospitals, medical institutions and doctors dying for making a quick buck. The authorities concerned should be serious about this tendency that has caught up the medical sector as a contagion.
Another factor behind an increase in such incidents might be the foul play of some unscrupulous rackets, instigating and forcing the victim's side to resort to vandalism as a way to make the hospitals cough up hefty amount as compensation. These unscrupulous racketeers, no doubt, would ask for their share with the victim's side. This raises a question whether big rackets are behind such incidents of vandalism. Such incidents also give bad name to the different organisations set up in the name of protecting the consumers' interests.
The role of the Medical Council becomes paramount at such moments. May be the council could set up a permanent and professional investigation mechanism, which would help in investigating such incidents, and fix penalty in case hospitals are found negligent and the doctors guilty of dereliction of their duty. It is also the government's responsibility to ensure the security of health facilities and the health personnel. But there is a complete lack of coordination and sensitivity on the part of the government to this.
Therefore, it is high time the government and the stakeholders make an honest appraisal of the institutional and individual shortcomings and lapses, and take institutional and individual initiatives for a forward-looking reform in the sector. The situation of the entire health sector of the country being stigmatized for a few incidents of omission and commission by some hospitals should be ended for the health of the health sector.