28 May, 2012
Dr Ravi Bapat is the man Amir Khan should have featured in his television programme on health issues Satyameva Jayate telecast on May 27. Dr Bapat is also much nearer home , in Mumbai. Dr Bapat is committed, has a long record of serving the poor in a public hospital and he has written about the importance of public hospitals and corruption in the private sector in two books.
Social commitment and medicine run in the family. Dr Bapat’s father Dr Dinkar Bapat removed 400 doctors from the employees’s state insurance scheme on charges of corruption when he was its director in the sixties. He conducted raids and found that some doctors ran bogus clinics and gave bogus certificates.
He got so fed up with the corruption that he sought a transfer and wrote an article on the decline in the morality of doctors in Mumbai.
So what Amir Khan highlighted was important but by no means new. For example Dr Bapat points out on page 165 in his more recent book Post Mortem that if a doctor takes a seriously ill patient hurriedly for an operation, it is likely that the patient is already dead but all operation charges will be recovered from the family.
Hysterectomy is the bread and butter of gynaecologists and appendix of general surgeons. Many of these surgeries are unnecessary, he says.
Dr Bapat’s book Ward No 5, KEM, published six years ago, is published in Marathi as well as English and the more recent is Postmortem which is in Marathi and deserves to be urgently translated into other languages.
God forbid if a major calamity strikes Mumbai because we are weakening our public hospital infrastructure, warned Dr Bapat in Ward NO 5, KEM. .
It is only in the last few years that the craze for private, expensive hospitals and private medical colleges has begun. Formerly, prominent political leaders regularly took treatment in public hospitals. Members of the Bal Thackeray family including wife Meenatai used to get treatment in the municipal KEM hospital. Dr Ravi Bapat recalls this in his book .
The book reads like a novel because it deals with such a wide variety of characters. Nowhere else can a doctor get such experience as a public hospital. Ravi Bapat has treated all sorts of people from senior politicians to gangsters, artistes, sportspersons and social activists.
In 1983 when Bal Thackeray’s ailment could not be diagnosed, Bapat examined him, stopped his homeopathic treatment, gave him new medicines and restored his health. One needs to make it clear that Bapat is not at all close to the Thackerays. Far from it. He was very close to many activists and leaders of left wing trade unions during the more militant days of the sixties and seventies.
Bapat’s father and wife too studied in G.S. medical college of KEM and as a student he got guidance from such stalwarts of those days as Dr A.V. Baliga, G.M. Phadke, Arthur D’sa , B.N. Purandare and P.K. Sen.
Bapat is troubled by the growing privatisation, commercialisation of medicine. He has seen it all from close quarters as a practising senior surgeon and later as vice chancellor of Maharashtra university for medical sciences. Doctors are so busy chasing money these days that they are putting their own health at risk, Bapat says.
Many doctors have a long record of dedicated social service and many are brilliant writers. The foremost among them is A.J. Cronin, who did pioneering work in the field of occupational health among mine workers in the U.K. and his writing was responsible for the much lauded British health service. More recently, Dr Atul Gawande, a U.S. born son of a doctor couple, has done pioneering work in the profession and on writing on it. However, the profession also has been lampooned for its downside. I remember a Sanskrit proverb Yamaraj Sahodar which says a doctor is like the elder brother of Yama, the god of death, Yama only takes your life, the doc takes both your life and money.
Way back in 1978, the book Chloroform, written by Dr Arun Limaye while losing his battle against cancer, questioned various aspects of the medical profession. The book was published by Granthali. It was a landmark book and Limaye’s premature passing away left a void.
The irregularities and crimes of multinational pharmaceutical companies are regularly exposed in the Western media and literature but so little notice is taken of these in India. John La Carre’s novel The Constant Gardner shows the crimes of the MNCs which included the murder of a British diplomat’s wife in Africa because she is a committed campaigner.
Amir Khan’s programme is good and many decent people are connected with it. But it is completely marred by the exhortation by Mrs Nita Ambani of the Ambani Foundation and there arises a very big question of credibility.
She talks of taking India from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, from dependence to self reliance and so on. While she speaks softly, the import is extremely arrogant as it seeks to project the foundation as the solution of all of India’s problems. Even an election campaign speech has more credibility.
The Ambanis are simply using a good programme to brighten their extremely controversial image. Of course, there is no shortage of collaborators in the media trumpeting for the Ambanis.
And an Ambani-sponsored programme on health issues seems extremely odd considering the record of the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital at Andheri though it belongs to the rival Anil Ambani group. Just read the damning report of the auditor and comptroller general presented to the Maharashtra legislature recently.
That apart the programme and much of the discussion elsewhere on health issues is too focussed on big hospitals, doctors and treatment. The more crucial issue of prevention is generally neglected. It is much more important to provide clean drinking water, air and nutritious food and basic health services to the masses than to build expensive, high tech hospitals. But hospitals bring more publicity and strengthen the vested interests in the medical corporate complex.
(Mr Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of the book Traffic in the era of climate change. Walking, cycling, public transport need priority. [email protected])
- Does the truth prevail in Aamir Khan’s Satyameva Jayate? (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Corporate Social Responsibility and Satyamev Jayate #Aamir Khan (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Satyamev Jayate – The Status of Medical Industry in India (kish.in)
May 30, 2012 at 1:43 pm
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