//Touts rule the roost in government hospitals

Touts rule the roost in government hospitals

Divya Ramamurthi and Raghava M, The Hindu, Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Health of Hospitals – I They offer `help' in getting an appointment, having records examined and signed by the doctors

# Many touts have an acquaintance with doctors and knowledge of the functioning of the hospital
# People in the country pay Rs. 2,017 crore a year as bribes in government hospitals.

BANGALORE: From railway stations, sub-registrar offices to hospitals — touts seem to be ruling the roost. These days, getting "quick and quality" treatment at government hospitals requires greasing a few palms of touts, who have an acquaintance with the doctors and a knowledge of the functioning of the hospital. 

At Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, touts hang around at the entrance of the main building as well as the emergency and the outpatient orthopaedic wards, offering help in getting an appointment, having records examined and signed by doctors and helping the individual beat the queue in meeting the doctors. The price for these services is variable.

Muniappa (57), who had fractured his leg, said his family members had approached one of the touts to find a doctor for his treatment. It was only after the deal was finalised, he said, did one of the hospital staff wheel his stretcher into the orthopaedic ward.

Bribes

A report by Transparency International India said people in the country pay Rs. 2,017 crore a year as petty bribes in government hospitals. It said 26.5 per cent of urban households admitted to paying bribes for services in government hospitals. Twenty-four per cent of the respondents surveyed said they had paid bribes to hospital authorities.

Widespread

H. Sudarshan, Director, Vigilance, Lokayukta, said corruption in hospitals was widespread.

"It is a huge problem in government hospitals that extends at all levels — from the ward personnel to doctors," he said.

Bribes are taken for a range of activities, including issuing outpatient slips to admitting patients to the wards, conducting investigations and being assisted to the X-ray room.

"A mother needs to pay money to see her newborn child and to have it given a bath," he added.

The Superintendents of both Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital and Victoria Hospital said stringent action was being taken against errant paramedical staff and doctors.

The two hospitals were working towards making their functioning more transparent, they said.

K.V. Ashok Kumar, Superintendent of Victoria Hospital, said the hospital had placed complaint boxes in strategic locations to receive such complaints. "We need the complaint in writing to take notice of it. People can also lodge their complaints orally before me," he said.

K.M. Nandagopal, in-charge Superintendent of Bowring Hospital, said the hospital was installing computers with a software that would monitor the patient's stay in the hospital, starting from his/ her admission till discharge.

"We hope to plug the leakages by the use of this system," he added.