The Interpreter of Maladies: An anaesthetist opens up about what ails the medical industry in India

An anaesthetist opens up about what ails the medical industry in India and why his beliefs have rattled both doctors and patients alike.

Written by Shaju Philip | New Delhi | Published:June 14, 2015 1:00 am
An anaesthetist opens up about what ails the medical industry in India and why his beliefs have rattled both doctors and patients alike An anaesthetist opens up about what ails the medical industry in India and why his beliefs have rattled both doctors and patients alike

A week after his post, “Why I will never allow my child to become a doctor in India,” was published on his blog on godyears.net, Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan quit his job. The 34-year-old anaesthetist decided to leave his post at a private hospital in Palakkad and return to his native Kannur. “I am looking for a job in Kannur so I can take care of my parents,’’ he says. Readers of the blog post shouldn’t be too surprised, the young doctor knows full well how his career choice will cost him, but it is a price he is willing to pay.

In his blog post, Radhakrishnan writes a letter to his imaginary son, warning him about the perils of entering the medical industry in India, where he will have to tackle a multitude of issues — the skewed doctor-patient ratio (0.7 doctors per 1,000 Indians), the insufficient salary in rural government hospitals, the better pay at private hospitals but the soul-crushing hours that must be clocked, the violence doctors have to face from patients’ families, how pharmaceutical companies are never hauled up for selling faulty medicines and more.

“Erring doctors should be punished. But there are several unreported incidents of attacks on doctors. The hospital management wants to cover up assaults as they fear reporting of such incidents would impair the image of the hospital,’’ says Radhakrishnan, who decided to write the post after reading media reports about doctors being attacked in various parts of the country by patients’ relatives.

The son of a retired public relations officer with a shipping firm in Dubai, Radhakrishnan completed his MBBS from Bharati Vidhyapeeth Medical College in Pune. He started his career as an assistant professor with a private medical college in Mangalore and after two years there, he moved to another private hospital in Palakkad. For the first few years in the hospital, he worked round-the-clock. “Many of us lived on the hospital campus; some lived away from their families,” he says.

Since Radhakrishnan posted the article on his blog on May 15, it has attracted more than 20,000 shares, over 2 lakh hits and has been published on news media sites as well. Taken aback at the avalanche of responses the post has generated, Radhakrishnan says that his arguments have resonated significantly with the medical community, from “first year medicos to senior doctors”.

Radhakrishnan argues that the hospital management are responsible for the growing distrust among the stakeholders of the health sector. “Some hospitals in the country have started appointing bouncers as security guards. This shows the complete breakdown of doctor-patient relationship,” he says. But one of the most alarming issues is India’s dismal healthcare budget. “We spend a mere one per cent on public healthcare in India, as opposed to three per cent in China and eight per cent in the US,” he writes in his post.

Radhakrishnan is now scouting for a life partner. “I am willing to marry a doctor. But I will be happy with a fixed salary. I continue to love this profession and as an anaesthetist, I want to make people not feel pain. People expect miracles from doctors, but we can’t always deliver them,’’ he says.

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