Sunday, January 20, 2008

Accountability in GH - 2

We spent a considerable time in these two weeks trying to talk to officials in government hospitals.

As mentioned in "Accountability in GH" We were trying to meet the Head of the Cardio Thoracic block in GH. So we went one day, but his room was locked. When we enquired around we were told that the Chief had come, but might be on rounds, and asked us to wait. We thought, that while we were waiting, we can go to the ward where Manjula was admitted and see if we can talk to some people. There we saw a girl, Satya, who had been admitted before Manjula. We remember her and she too remembered us. On asking, we learnt that her name was Satya. Satya is a very active girl who is always ready to help others with her "experience" in the ward. She had finished here 10th standard education in April 2007. But then was admitted here in June. But she had not yet been operated upon. She had been to the operation theatre and back 12 times. (A useful thing to do when reading such numbers is to count till the given number in mind, and each time think of the activity. Say, 1, Go to the OT and come back, 2, go to the OT and come back, 3 go to the OT and so on. That will give a good idea of what the writer is trying to convey) She could not continue her 11th std education since she was admitted here in GH. Half of this academic year is over. And still her surgery has not happened. One year of her life is wasted. Thanks to a lack of any time allocation system in this hospital. Meanwhile there was a call for Prabha that she had to meet a school principal. So we could not wait any longer and hence went back without meeting him. We came back again on another day (last monday 14th Jan). But he was on leave and, that he will not be back till Saturday. Hence we could not meet him at all.

Some time back we had filed a complain with DVAC against corruption in a government hospital, which was mentioned in this post. We also wanted to look at the accountability mechanism within the hospital rather than outside. So We thought that we can directly go to the hospital and file a complaint and see what will come out of it. So Prabha, Bharathi and I went there, and met the RMO (by now, we have been to government hospitals enough times to know that every hospital has an RMO, who kind of takes care of administration in the hospital). He asked us to give the complaint with more details of date and time when the incidents happened. He asked us to meet the Director of the hospital too. She was Dr.Vasantha M Subbiah. As soon as she saw the complaint, she asked us why we waited so long to file a complaint. She also asked us why Bharathi did not complain as soon as the people there asked her for money. We pointed out that since the mother and child are still in the hospital, we would naturally be apprehensive in refusing the money that was. She didnt consider that a good reason for giving bribes and said that the staff there cant lay their hands on the mother or child and that we should not hesitate to complain.

She pointed out how she had put up boards everywhere in the hospital that giving and taking money is a crime and that if there were any such instances a complaint can be lodged at the given phone number. She also told us how several attempts at curbing corruption have not helped. She had tried, suspension, fines and she said that nothing worked, since the amount they are fined is much less than what they earn as bribes. Her opinion was that only police action will dissuade the staff from taking bribes. Once one or two employess were arrested by the police, then others might be wary. She anyway took our complaint, and said that she will call us when she is conducting the enquiry. Overall, she seemed to be a sincere person. And we had hopes of working with her in the future.

Coming back from the hospital, we were wondering about a solution to the corruption problem in hospitals. One possibility is that we can put a person in the hospital (if the director agrees) and ask that person to talk to every patient who is getting discharged, and then take the complaints. This will be a proactive way since patients on their own, at the time of discharge from the hospital, would only be relieved that the ordeal has ended and wouldnt bother to come and complain. Hence having a person at the time of discharge ask them about any problems they faced, might just push them to make complaints. But still, we are wondering what process would set the system right, so that an interference from our side is not necessary in every government hospital to keep corruption out. We are thinking on that since, once we feel that have a good idea we can talk to the director and try the idea in that hospital. Suggestions are welcome. (Leave your suggestions as a comment)

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