On Monday the Jammu and Kashmir High Court directed the government to properly monitor the private health establishments, particularly the diagnostic centres in the state so that their unfair practices including the over-charging are curbed. The court also directed the government to publicise the costs of coronary stents available in the hospitals of the state and reminded it of the National Pharmaceutical Authority of India (NPAI) notification about the costs of stents. These directions came while hearing a PIL about “medical corruption” by doctors, chemists and the technical experts of the diagnostic centres, which remains an unfortunate reality.
Howsoever anyone may wish to disagree, it remains a fact that Kashmir Valley particularly is really a gold mine, and everybody is busy milking the society and its systems to the best possible advantage and that too without any hassles. Although like elsewhere laws are here as well, but unlike anywhere else, nobody bothers to heed these laws as there is no mechanism for their implementation as well. All one has to do is to open a ‘shop’, and start minting money by preying upon the gullible. Here the ‘shop’ does not mean just a grocery or some something like that, but the ‘shop’ is the term used to describe the business in general. So as the situation is, we have all kinds of shops here – right from the ones that are run as political establishments to those who actually sell some merchandize; and everybody is doing just too well.
Of late medical profession has turned into a virtual gold mine for all those who are associated with it. So huge is the money in this field that not only the trained doctors but even the semiliterate quacks too are amassing wealth by either posing as doctors or simply offering some other supplementary services like clinical laboratories, diagnostic centres, X-ray clinics and the like. No wonder that a huge industry has sprung up in the Valley to prey upon the already distressed lot. Now see the irony, these ‘medical shops’ (read private clinics and diagnostic centres or nursing homes and hospitals) have spread their tentacles everywhere so much so that it has become practically impossible for the people here to conceive of a healthy life without paying some ransom to the Kashmir’s medical mafia.
Although the Directorate of Health Services here is well aware of the machinations of this mafia, yet they prefer not to do much about it for the sheer reason that the wealth amassed by these private practitioners has brought them huge clout and influence. And here as the hindsight has it, government and its agencies have always played in the hands of the rich and powerful. No wonder that people of Kashmir, particularly the chunk already troubled and distressed by disease, have been left to the mercy of the greedy diagnostic centres, clinical labs and so-called medical institutes and hospitals. At places doctors themselves have put together some big medical centres where besides the doctors’ consultation so many other facilities like lab and diagnostic tests are offered under the same roof. In most cases, these so-called facilities are add-ons for ensuring more and more easy income for the owners.
Interestingly, on paper many of these medical facilities are registered as ‘trusts’ and as such feign to be run as charities. But fact of the matter is that these are lucrative business ventures of a powerful few. There is nothing for the ailing patients here except for those who are willing to turn a blind eye to the cheating by these facilities in the name of medical care and help. While most of the facilities remain grossly mismanaged as far as the patient-care and comfort is concerned, what makes the matters worse is that the staff too are ill-mannered and lack even in basic human niceties like talking pleasantly with the visiting patients and their attendants.
These medical facilities are, in reality, just one of the many examples of a large malaise plaguing Kashmir. It is time for the government to wake up and initiate action against these white-collared robbers who are simply sucking at the bleeding wounds of distressed and diseased Kashmir.