This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Another Little Genocide

Yesterday's (16 July 2007) The Times Of India (appropriate nomenclature would have it renamed The Crimes Of India, the sodding tabloid) had this article about Michael Moore's SiCKO, the film excoriating the American "health-care" system. What did the article discuss?SiCKO? The US's alleged care for its citizens? The health care system in Europe and Cuba? No.  

What the guy writing the article was going on about was Moore's failure to mention India as one of the countries where healthcare was cheap and excellent, so that foreigners come in droves to have their surgeries done here - with a trip to the Taj Mahal thrown in.

Ha. And ha again.

I don't know who this article was aimed at. Certainly not at anyone who has ever visited an Indian government hospital can believe a word about the alleged excellence of Indian health care. Here is what you are assured of seeing if you visit an Indian government hospital in the average city:

Patients - especially if they are children - forced to share beds and being placed on the floor (regardless of what they suffer from);

Dogs and cats wandering through the wards, which stink of pee and vomit;

Doctors conspicuously missing from duty, engrossed in their mostly illegal private practices;

In pathology laboratories, hundreds of patients' blood samples being taken by the same needle, said needle being given a quick rub down by an alcohol swab between pricks; 

Equipment falling to pieces because there is nobody to use it, let alone maintain it;

Endless lines at outpatient clinics;

And more in the same vein, as the British medical journal The Lancetpointed out last year, raising not the slightest ripple in India.

Who would ever submit themselves deliberately to this sort of hell? Answer: most Indians, because they have literally no choice. (At least in the city the hospitals, such as they are, exist. In villages health care is in the hands of the local witch doctor, and I am not kidding.)

Oh yes, good hospitals exist. Good hospitals exist if you can fork out the money for them, because they are all in the private sector. Even a procedure like bone marrow transplant in the government hospitals (like New Delhi's AIIMS, which at least does the treatment) costs about Rs 600,000 (at current exchange rates, about US$ 15,000). In private hospitals the cost is much higher.

It may be, therefore, affordable to the average Briton or American, but not to any but the most opulent Indians. This is what the media praise and support. I have yet to see a single commentator demand that Indian patients be subsidised from the profits made from foreigners.

But, wait, it gets even better. Not only do the private hospitals make a killing from the foreign trade, they have turned themselves into a branch of the hospitality industry, with five-star standard hotel rooms, trips to monuments, and all thrown in for the dollar-spending crowd. All this means, of course, that their focus has shifted to treating the foreigner and not the Indian - because in general he cannot pay.

Meanwhile, of course, the deliberate neglect of government health care (the country spends many times more on weapons everyone knows will never, can never, be used, because the cost of a major war is just too high, than on health and education put together) forces the patient into the hands of the private doctor who treats the patient as a cash cow. (I was shocked to discover that the cost of a root canal in Mumbai, for example, was twelve times what I charge, but then Mumbai is  a favoured destination for medical tourists).

Sometimes I wonder if right wingers can still consider themselves human beings. If they can't be affected - if they take pride in not being affected - by the sight of a mother having to sacrifice her child to a treatable disease because she cannot pay, where is their humanity? What do they believe in, some kind of bizarre Social Darwinism where the rich are rich because they are clever and better suited to survive, so the poor can go to the wall?

Moore contrasted nations like France and Cuba with the US simply because those nations first ensure free healthcare to their own citizens. That is the last thing Indian healthcare systems do, private or government.

Please - if you're a foreigner considering medical treatment in India,go elsewhere. Not the slightest bit - not one penny - of what you spend will go to doing anything except enrich already too rich doctors, and all it will do is deprive Indians of even more of what little healthcare they get.

Pity Moore didn't refer to India in SiCKO as well. He might have felt that the US isn't all that bad after all.

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