This morning a neighbour of Mehajabi came by. Actually he was the man who had first brought her to us. He had come to collect the precious receipts that would ensure that the child was operated. After collecting the two pieces of paper and listening to the instructions, he lingered on for a while, hesitant to say what he wanted to.
I asked him what the mater was and he said shoved some medical papers in my hand and mumbled some inaudible words. This is his story..
Two years ago he lived in a village in Bihar where he eked a living as a daily wage labourer. He has a tiny plot of land and a little house. Life would have carried on were it not for his wife's sudden loss of hearing. Local medical facilities being non-existent, he decided to come to Delhi in the hope of getting his wife cured. In Delhi he rented a tiny hovel and started his life as a daily wage labourer in earnest. He also set out get his wife treated but soon discovered that each day spent at the government hospital was one without work and the treatment was taking forever as he was sent from pillar to post.
After some time the comings and goings got the better of the little family as there were four children that needed to be carted each time and the loss of income was too much to bear. The wife too took on a job and life went on. But the ear ailment worsened. The wife's employer decided to 'help' and sent the wife to a local specialist. She paid part of the treatment but then left for another city. The wife was 'operated' upon and given a huge prescription of expensive medicines. Part of the doctor's bill still needed to be paid and the man borrowed and paid the same. But no money was left for the medication and the wife never went back to the doctor.
This was two weeks ago, and the man was at his wit's end as infection had set in, the landlord not been paid and the family in danger of being homeless. He had come to ask for help.
A quick glance at the medical papers he carried showed that they did not even state what kind of surgery had been performed. We took him to our local doctor who referred him to a ENT specialist and we will try and ensure that she gets treated.
There must be many like this family who come to the city and get caught in an infernal spiral. They leave their roots and home to seek better medical help but soon find themselves worse they were in a inhospitable big city that is ready to devour them. As they try to survive, they sink deeper into debt. Some turn to alcohol, others gamble, and still others take their frustration out on their helpless families.
Welcome to the world of medical tourism of another kind.