Health a la carte

Blissfully till now my trysts with the medical mafia were few, far away and second hand. They were oft recounted by people I knew and sometimes by my project why family for whom private - commercial - modern medicine is a sine qua non to social mobility. Just like for weddings they will be beg, borrow and steal to get their dear ones admitted to one of the top medical five star facilities. I feel appalled and angry when I see people paying tens of thousands of rupees for c

Just like public schools mushroomed a few years back, private hospitals, some obscenely grandiose, are proliferating at every corner of our city. They come as a counterpoint to the avalanche of private health insurance companies that promise the world and more. Somehow the whole symphony sounds extremely false and is the absolute opposite of the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath! You even have a modern version now! I think I am going to write a desi version sometimes in the near future.

I have never been one to plan life with logic and good sense. I am more the one who leaves everything in the hands of the one residing above and take life a day at a time. So I am not the one who took time reading the fine print of a loved one's insurance cover. A simple query that was answered by a short: everything was enough to satisfy my fleeting need. I must confess that there are moments or rather issues that I deal with hubris.

Someone had other plans as my carefully crafted world got a blow that almost knocked me out. In spite of all my careful orchestrating I forget that life's symphony is composed by another we have no hold on. I who had clamoured with misplaced confidence that I would never - never say never again- allow myself to be caught in the vortex of private and commercial healthcare suddenly found myself in the midst of it! The never read lines revealed their truth. The everything so easily accepted turned out to be a maze best typified as illogical. It turned out that the post and number of years toiled in a PSU entitled you to a double room. I wanted a single one. Naive as I am I thought that paying the difference would be sufficient! Not at all was what I was about to discover in a well staged and acted play.

Twenty years ago, when my father needed a surgery there were no super speciality hospitals. You either went to a state run one or chose a nursing home. I selected the later. I was given a price list with different items, one of them being rooms. I chose the best. The rest of the items were fixed! But that is not how it goes now. It is the room that defines the price of the rest of the items be it the OT charges or the nursing ones. I wanted a single room for many reasons and tried to dig my heals. I was sent from pillar to post as I kept asking why this could not be. I was met by a series of people whose nomenclatures seemed more appropriate in a corporate house than in a home of healing. I got the whole enchilada from the kind and polite PRO, to the less kind and polite god knows who; from the seemingly understanding secretary of the Doctor to the most supposedly humane Doc who sent me back to another set of people whose kindness and politeness differed. After having been swung from here to there I was ready for the kill: a meeting with the head of finances, Cerberus herself, devoid of kindness and politeness who barked at me that there was no way I could get that single room, and if I did want it my bill would grow at an exponential rate. And that any way there were no single rooms available. And anyway you are a book judged by its cover and I was not wearing the right shoes, carrying the right bag and dripping with the right jewels.

I came back licking my wounds and trying to rearrange my head in accepting that my poor partner will be subjected to the snores of another. Trying to come to terms with the fact that we would not be able to be with him as a family. So alternate plans were drafted and it was decided that we would admit him as late in the day as possible and get him out as soon as possible. I did not know then that the 'protocol' - a word with a whole new meaning for a diplomat's daughter - was to keep a patient in ICU one whole night even if the surgery is minor. Actually in state run hospitals they would send you back in a few hours. We got our open heart surgery kids back in three days! But we are now in the realm of commercial health and the meter has to keep running for as long as possible. Makes me sick when I see the millions who cannot and do not get access to any form of humane treatment.

So as per plan we shipped the husband to the hospital late in the night! Imagine my surprise when I was told that he had been given a single room! Was it an answer to my entreaties or to my prayers. I do not know. But I feel a little better knowing I beat the system.