Hospitals must get their priorities right

Could timely treatment have saved the lives of at least a few of the 106 victims in the Malwani hooch tragedy is the question that was raised by this paper’s front page report yesterday. The patients were sent to the BMC-run Shatabdi Hospital, but were still deprived of essential treatment because the dialysis centre run by a private trust had shut for the day. Despite dire need, the facility was not reopened and the patients had to be transferred to other hospitals, resulting in loss of precious time.

There are various institutions and trusts that tie up with the government to set up hospitals with the promise to provide treatment to the needy, either free of cost or at concessional rates. But there have been plenty of instances when patients visited these hospitals expecting better care, only to run from pillar to post with no relief.

Take the example of a super specialty hospital that was set up in Andheri (East) on a public-private partnership model. The hospital had come up on a huge plot that was owned by BMC, and the corporation had expressed that it would want 30 per cent of the beds reserved for those below the poverty line. However, the private player who set up the hospital infrastructure refused, saying the agreement did not have any such clause and that the BMC should leave it to the hospital to decide what percentage of the beds be reserved for underprivileged patients. Ever since the hospital has been functional, its management has been at loggerheads with the BMC.

The reason such incidents take place is because there is no proper government machinery in place to keep a continuous check on whether the trusts or hospitals provide proper treatment to poor patients, whether the private players are following the spirit of the agreement they had entered while availing benefits from the government.

It’s hard to tell how many lives could have been saved if the dialysis centre at Shatabdi had treated them. It is now time the authorities take a close look at the situation and ensure no more needless loss of lives takes place.

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