We can live in our gated communities and remain mute witnesses to one of India’s worst kept secrets – a non-existent public health care system. Or we can do something about.

We are letting rats gnaw at infants to death in hospitals shame on the shamelessImage: By Paulrudd (Own work) Wikimedia Commons
Voices Thursday, August 27, 2015 - 16:47

Even if the 10-day old infant had not died of rat bites in a government hospital in Guntur, the doctors need to explain what happened. The parents of the baby have said their child was first bitten on Sunday and a second time on Wednesday. The mother has been quoted as saying doctors ignored her cries for help. Sounds familiar? Everybody reading this most likely knows of a case of medical negligence where either someone has died or suffered physical damage. And we are among the privileged. 

Fact remains that a newborn has died in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital with wounds that cannot be explained medically. If they can be explained, then the hospital needs to be shut down and the attending doctors barred from practicing. Expect a commission of enquiry, a report, a recommendation and more disease-causing dust. Expect politicians to jump in. Expect us, the journalists, to express outrage and move on to the next tragedy.

Unlike many professions, the medical one is sacred. When a physician takes the Hippocratic oath it is a commitment to uphold ethical standards, almost a prayer to healings gods. The white coat is no ordinary piece of garment – it carries hope of life when worn and seen.

Medical negligence is rampant in India even among the best hospitals that boast of medical care and assistance comparable to the best in the world. In famous hospitals, doctors have targets to meet like companies that have to report earnings every quarter.  You have to know somebody who knows somebody failing which you are often at the mercy of untrained and arrogant staff. Imagine the plight of the parents who saw the bloody wounds of their baby go unattended. They are not powerful or famous people so there was little they could do, no one they could call for help, no friend of a friend.  Imagine what the baby went through. Not too long ago there was an incident in Bangalore when a doctor was beaten up for negligence leading to death.  We can live in our gated communities and remain mute witnesses to one of India’s worst kept secrets – a non-existent public health care system. Or we can do something about. The choice is ours.

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