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ALPANA GHOSE

SONGSOPTOK THE WRITERS BLOG | 4/15/2016 |




My aunt died last month. She was   only in   late fifties, suffering from unknown serious disease   after her knee replacement surgery. It was detected, after her death, that it was some   unknown type of   infection   that   infected her operated part of the body   which could not be detected easily and she suffered a lot and then died. The infection came from Operation Theater.

This incident   gave a   deep impact   in my mind   which forces me to probe into the matter. To my surprise according to a study: in Delhi hospitals one in ten patients admitted for serious surgical condition and died , many suffered severe harm due to preventable errors. When I studied further about such type of incident (call it preventable hospital errors), I could find   a study says Health care related errors   are real and proven in numerous cases   continuing their silent killings.

Such errors are not just not doctors and nurses    committing mistakes but safe health care are more an administrative and hospital system related issue, hardly any individual doctor or nursing staff is involved in such type of health care errors. Poorly designed, poorly maintained,   poorly sanitized hospitals and lack of culture of safety are the main reasons for such deaths. Purchase of substandard or faulty equipments and counterfeit medicines, poor infection control system, lack of communication to patients and their attendants, outdated knowledge of doctors and nursing staff add to it.

Other than this, system related harm is much   magnified in India due to its unique, unflattering aspects. For example many private medical colleges, nursing institutions, granting degrees (means license to practice) simply by taking huge sum of money as “fees”. Hence hundreds and thousands of health professionals, with   lack of basic knowledge of handling patients, are working in hospitals and naturally medical errors happening day in and day out.

Safety in health care became a big issue only after it came under consumer protection act. Which    took hospitals, doctors and other staffs   legally   accountable for their faults? This topic “safety in hospitals” came into focus only in early 2000. Hospitals started getting accreditations, after giving   rigorous training of health professionals and staffs. Still there is no serious political commitment at the national or state level   for the safety of health care till to date. These are stories of big cities but in small town, block hospitals people have never even heard the word “safe health care”.

Culture of quality control and safety are really very challenging. More difficult is to implement it in generally crowded, cramped hospitals. People who   suffer most are the poor people of India who get treatment in Government hospitals. They are the worst sufferer of preventable health care errors. To improve the Indian healthcare system a strong political will is needed, generous funds has to be allocated in public health system.

To address the issue of safety health care, we the people of India, have to raise our voice against corruption that sparked the global interest in the rampant practices of kickbacks for referrals, revenue target in corporate hospitals and the capitation fees in private medical colleges in India. Medical Council of India (MCI) was established under the Medical Council Act in 1933   which has the responsibility of maintaining the standard of medical education providing ethical oversight. Later MCI became inactive with the vested interest of politicians, many of whom own private medical colleges. These politicians hounded the whistleblowers who have attempted to raise the question of sanctity of such private medical colleges, leading to mushrooming substandard medical colleges everywhere in India. Result is seen now in hospitals that have become breeding house of death instead of giving life. Study says about five million people suffer every  year due to unsafe medical care , although this is  only an average data, actual magnitude of  data may be many fold  than this.

What is the need of the hour   is to overhaul MCI, formation of a new regulatory framework with the new national medical commission, generate awareness among people and political will to take patients safety seriously, so that no aunt should suffer and die like mine due to hospital error .

[ALPANA GHOSE]

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