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Healthcare in Kerala
In My View

Healthcare in Kerala

P.C. Punnen

Last year in May, nineteen lives were lost in Kerala because of the Nipah virus. This year one case has been confirmed so far, who is responding to the treatment well according to reports.

It was a disaster that was not caused by the failure of the government or unawareness of the people. The government and the people of Kerala took enough care to avoid last year's disaster. I doubt whether the same thing would have happened in certain other states. Hats off to Kerala’s Health minister Shylaja and the doctors who acted promptly. Nipah is back. People fear it and rightly so. Regular announcements from the health authorities prevented panic. Health authorities also took enough measures to contain the spread of Nipah virus.

Last year clearly the people and the government included thought that bats or pigs were the carriers of this virus. This year too they suspect them. They have not reached a conclusion on its cause. That does not speak well for the healthcare authorities and to some extent the government. They should have diagnosed or found out by now whether bats or pigs caused it. They should have done something to save bats and pigs to avoid Nipah once and for all. Three hundred and eleven people are under observation. Only one case has been confirmed; so far so good.

But the question is in a way related to our doctors and people in charge of healthcare units. Did they do their duty fully, that's the question. It will remain a question for the simple reason that not much money is in the hands of the government to investigate the matter thoroughly. There is no point in killing bats and pigs.

The people of Kerala are happy that the Nipah they feared has been contained. The central government, flush with funds, should help the state government. The Kerala government must reach out to solve this problem fully and seek help from the centre.

Let us go to the greatest fear that has as time would tell us, surface- the deaths of innocent people caused by doctors’ apathy or inaction. The doctors are a high breed; they have taken the Hippocratic oath. They are highly respected and treated by the citizens as the upper hands, not like journalists or politicians. They, in respect of the treatment, are expected to do good for the people. The fact is they don't.

They only care for their kith and kin. They have become money makers. There is no point in blaming them alone because India as a whole is of the same style; the more money they make the higher they go.

I am reminded of a doctor, a German who played a key role in Caritas Hospital. This is what I heard from my relatives. He used to spend long hours with the patients hearing their problems. Since he was not very fluent in Malayalam he used to have others, mostly priests, by his side. He charged peanuts for treatment. Today Caritas Hospital is a big institute in Kottayam. The doctors care two hoots for the patients. That holds good for almost all hospitals whether government or private. Very few doctors today serve their patients with dedication. The same apathy can be said about the editorial in a leading newspaper that did not say anything of the victim who died because he was not admitted by three hospitals despite the seriousness of his situation.

The Supreme Court had passed an order granting such people the right to be admitted. The Kerala police had filed a case against them. The man, Jacob Thomas, was not admitted since the ventilator was not available. Thomas had to be rushed to other hospitals like Matha and Caritas. They said the same thing. He was taken back to Medical College Hospital and he died instantly in the ambulance. This happened in Kottayam, Kerala.

A similar case had happened in Malapuram district last year in a government hospital. Such cases could happen again. Unless the Supreme Court gives a verdict punishing the hospital employees severely, such incidents are bound to happen again and again.

Take for instance the case of a woman who underwent chemotherapy because the Medical College Hospital couldn't deliver the test result she underwent there. So she had to seek a nearby diagnostic lab run by a retired medical college doctor. Based on that report she underwent chemotherapy. Then the test results of the Medical College came saying that she had tested negative and had no cancer! It's a strange incident where the lab workers delayed delivery of the test results and on a doctor’s advice she went to another lab and had chemo which was unnecessary. The poor lady had to undergo the trauma owing to the carelessness of the hospital. The police is said to have registered a case on the complaint of the lady.

The whole thing speaks of Keralites greed for money at whatever cost. The more such incidents come to be highlighted in the press, the more will Keralites realise the curse of greed that has spread all around.

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The views and facts in the article are that of the author.