Hospital blues

Recently, I had the misfortune of making a number of visits to a leading private-sector hospital in Islamabad, and found it to be under immense pressure due to inadequate health facilities in the capital and its surroundings. Apparently, the hospital and its subsidiary have monopolised the  health sector in Islamabad and are doing a roaring business by charging exorbitant fees for different services on offer. Despite being so expensive, the parking lots, corridors, waiting halls, out-patient clinics and laboratories remain packed all day long. The inpatient occupancy rate is just as amazing.

The thing that irked me the most in my interactions was the zeal with which everyone at the hospital promotes laboratory tests and the insistence to have them all done at the hospital itself “in order to safeguard our patients”. Surprisingly, a non-contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan done at the hospital was found not good enough by the consulting physician at the hospital, and the patient was advised to have “further evaluation with post-contrast MRI”.

Would it not have been better if, in the first instance, an MRI with contrast was prescribed? This would have saved time, money and frequent pricking of the veins and being exposed to radiation and magnetic rays over and over again.

Further, the lab reports are normally provided in 12-24 hours, and are directly transmitted to the consulting doctor online. As a rule, doctors or their assistants should update the patients about the further course of action. However, one has to collect the hard copies of the reports and personally wait in the queue to have the doctor’s advice.

As per hospital policy, if the reports are presented and examined by the doctor within seven days of the first visit, the consultation is free. In such a scenario, waiting in the queue means hours as the revenue patients having an appointment for the day are accommodated on a priority basis. The other option is to plead with the staff and flatter them to squeeze is an audience with the doctor in between the scheduled appointments.

Many find it more convenient and dignified to take a fresh appointment by paying the consultant’s fee once again.

This is clearly what the hospital policy and its execution seem to be encouraging everyone to do. There is something about the whole environment that suggests, even though there is no substantiating proof on this count, that different sections of the hospital have been assigned some kind of revenue targets that they have to meet within the timeframe, and the staff is doing its best to hit that target to save their skin.

Lastly, I saw a very disturbing warning displayed in a hospital corridor, stating that anyone exhibiting ‘disruptive behaviour’ will be reported to law-enforcement authorities. Why and under what circumstances such a situation would occur, unless provoked by the hospital or its staff? Patients visit hospitals for consultation, counselling, sympathy and empathy. What is the point of imposing a certain set of behaviour on them? Treat them with respect, and they will thank you even after having to wait for hours. Instead of doing the simple thing right, the hospital administration is threatening the patients with consequences. This is quite strange.



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