Is there a lack of will to reform the evil practices in our healthcare system? Australian medical practitioner Dr David Berger who volunteered as a physician at a charitable hospital in the Himalayas answers in the affirmative. Writing for the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Dr Berger highlights how “kickbacks and bribes oil every part of the healthcare machinery.”
Dr Berger’s article draws attention to the “unvirtuous circle” of donations and fees in private institutions generating a debt burden, making doctors more open to corruption. This would be news to readers of a UK journal, but not to the Indian medical community. It also talks about the system of kickbacks and gratifications that flourishes in clinical practice.
Unscrupulous doctors prescribe unnecessary drugs and specific brands at the pecuniary urging of pharmaceutical companies, and order irrelevant tests for kickbacks. Medical organisations secure certification by dodgy means. These, too, are known evils.
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The article has seen response in the form of an editorial by a noted doctor in India, and a campaign against corruption in healthcare by BMJ that will start with a focus on India.
Dr Samiran Nundy, noted gastroenterologist and surgeon at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital who is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Current Medicine Research and Practice, published by the same hospital, has written an editorial in response to Dr Berger’s piece that appeared Tuesday.
Dr Nundy highlights the difficulties in getting admission in an MBBS course and the problems in “five star corporate hospitals” where the “temptation” to do “unnecessary investigations like CT scans and MRIs” and perform “unnecessary procedures like caesarian sections, hysterectomies” is “hard to resist”, and in pubic hospitals where “professors and associate professors fight over who should treat VIPs and wait on them…leaving the care of the poor to their junior colleagues”.
The government and the medical community know that such practices are eroding the public trust in doctors. Did they have to wait for a practitioner from overseas to blow the whistle, yet again?