Life savers or businessmen?

The healthcare industry is increasingly becoming focused on making money, rather than helping people out. This mentality needs to change for this sector to make progress in the future

One of the most prestigious and lucrative professional options for future generations are in the field of medicine, primarily doctors, that are supported the world over for their great service for the betterment of humanity. In Pakistan, many of them have to work with scarce resources, yet they make it work regardless. However, this is only true for developed regions of Pakistan, as elsewhere, the majority of our population does not have access to quality health care. Many of these so called ‘life saver’ are in fact greedy and out to benefit themselves, rather than the poor patients they swore to protect.

Medical Universities employ this tactic as well, and at times it seems they are only there to make money. Students pay exorbitant fees in college, and upon graduating, this financial burden is then passed on to their patients, who are charged inflated prices for basic health care. These same doctors feel as though they deserve more from society, and many join the Young Doctors Association (YDA) in order to make their financial demands come true.

When the patients do not ful fil their self-perceived demands for financial compensation then many doctors turn to other sources for income. They will start a private practice along with their government job, get support from pharmaceutical giants, or misappropriate funds meant for hospitals in impoverished areas that draw funding from the government, NGOs or other foreign sources. Many government employees just register their attendance alone, and can only be found at work during an inspection by a politician or government official.

The YDA has been a big cause for concern in Pakistan. Many times their protests seem aimless and their actions seem like that of an organised mafia. They use their influence in supporting doctors involved in cases of malpractice, and their constant protests can have very negative impacts

The YDA has been a big cause for concern in Pakistan. Many times their protests seem aimless and their actions seem like that of an organized mafia. They use their influence in supporting doctors involved in cases of malpractice, and their constant protests can have great negative impacts. My own neighbour lost his poor son due to the negligence of doctors caused by another protest rally by the YDA, and in the aftermath, the deceased’s father could find no one to complain to, or demand justice for his son.

Elitist medical colleges constantly teach their students only the importance of money and their status as a doctor, instead of the importance of human life. This is why when doctors graduate from these institutions; they are focused on doing the same. This leads to the exploitation of patients, and unequal distribution of medical help, with the financial status of a patient more important than their medical condition. Certain private hospitals charge so much money for basic facilities like syringes and cotton bandages etc. that most common citizens can’t hope to buy. The government needs to implement better checks on such institutions so as to avoid these situations.

I personally know many individuals in the medical system, and the majority of them are tired of the current state of affairs. A doctor friend once told me about a deceased patient who belonged to an elite family, who was kept on the ventilator for a few more days despite his death, so that the hospital could keep charging his family for their services. Another friend informed me of the big pharmaceutical firms that offered financial incentives and gifts to make doctors prescribe their medicines. There have even been cases of doctors or operation theatre staff ordering extra medicine, just so that they can sell the leftovers later on for profit

Some private hospitals have also started putting an added focus on C-Section deliveries, instead of natural birth. The majority of the women who undergo this procedure do not really need it, but since it is another money making opportunity for the doctors and the hospitals, the innocent women are taken advantage of, and forced to pay exorbitant fees for a procedure they did not need in the first place. Many women are not even made aware of the horrible side effects of C-Sections, like painful constipation, unexpected vomiting, postpartum depression, possible infections, excessive blood loss, secondary injury to other organs, complete numbness in some areas, horrible headaches, extreme fatigue and problems with future pregnancies.

It seems doctors and hospital managements have no concept of ethics anymore, and need to be trained to care about their patients, rather than their own selfish interests. People in this country look at a doctor and think of lavish lifestyles, even though medical professionals should instead be affiliated with kindness and their life saving abilities. The health care industry in Pakistan needs a change and now may be the time to do it.

The writer is a practicing lawyer

Published in Daily Times, August 22nd 2018.