A whipping boy was one who would be whipped if the “prince” played truant at school. Delhi Government orders doctors and hospitals to admit and treat Heat Stroke patients. There is a debate ongoing on whether doctors should insist on a mechanism for payment for such services. An argument has been raised being a noble profession it is the duty of medical professionals to do so.
My thoughts are, however, slightly different. I have my civic duties and I do not shirk them. However, when it is made my constitutional obligation failing which I may be penalized then I have to protest. There are innumerable doctors who after retirement do charitable work. Of the 9.5 lakh MBBS doctors in the country Government has jobs only for 1 lakh. The others have to fend for themselves and have to earn their livelihood from this very profession which involves treating the sick. If in the name of nobility, civic duty, philanthropy, nationalism I am forced to provide my services free of cost ultimately I cannot sustain.
Doctors in private sector have also made huge investments to fulfil societies’ expectations and the CEA (Clinical Establishments Act) minimum standards. The staff has to be paid, the supplier of medicine does not accept my argument for patriotic duty in lieu of cheque, even the Government does not waive off my utilities bill — in fact it charges more from me than it does from other professionals.
Also, there is the question — Are we asking only physicians to treat heat stroke patients with free ORS without charging consultation or are we also asking them to hospitalize patients and administer fluids for free or in case of renal failure to do dialysis for free and in case of multi-organ failure admit and treat the patient in ICU with high-end drugs and ventilator if needed for free, what if a CT Chest is needed, is that to be also done for free?
Government promotes criminality in medicine when it allows quacks to flourish and act as qualified doctors with privileges of qualified doctors. Having done so, the deeds of these quacks are conveniently extrapolated on the entire qualified medical fraternity. None of the so-called “noble” duties are, however, applicable on these quacks. If quackery was strictly controlled, qualified medical practitioners would have sufficient number of patients and hence their earnings would be adequate and there would be no need for doctors to resort to unfair trade practices. The Government sponsored quackery is the sole reason for the cuts, commissions and other unethical practices which have come in vogue. Very few specialists today are comfortable enough to say NO to dictates of these quacks masquerading as “Primary Physicians” as they form a lobby and decide which hospital, nursing home or specialist will be patronized by them. They are more organized and demand better respect of the society having already made the qualified doctors the “villains”.
We cannot and should not allow us to be used as a “whipping boy” as and when needed by the Government to cover its own failures. But for this we first need to learn to speak as one. Our intelligence is our weakness. We are an army of 9.5 lakh generals with no soldier and each has his own views on how the battle should be fought.
Dr Neeraj Nagpal
Convenor, Medicos Legal Action Group
Ex-President, IMA Chandigarh