When we fall sick, we say the doctor knows best. We trust these men in white with the medicines they scribble on the prescription paper and the investigations they ask us to get done. We swallow the bitter pills without questioning what’s needed and why. But last week when eight injections were pricked into my arm every day and my face was hidden under the oxygen mask though I could easily breathe, I knew I could no longer trust my doctor.
It was Saturday night, December 25, when I had high fever and cough so I decided to see a doctor the next day. I walked to Kailash Hospital in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, which is half a kilometre from my home.
The doctor, a consultant physician, asked me to get an x-ray done and after examining the reports he asked me to call my parents and get admitted in the hospital. I was diagnosed with pneumonia.
I occupied a room in the general ward and the hospital authority asked me to pay the room’s rent and the treatment cost even before starting to cure me. That is when I took out the health insurance card given by my office. Within minutes, I was shifted in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital.
My repeated queries as to why I was being shifted to the ICU when I was very much in my senses, had no fever and no difficulty in breathing and had in fact walked till the hospital, fell on deaf ears. The doctors, nurses or no other staff there offered any explanation whatsoever.
While still trying to get accustomed to the new environment, I got another surprise. As if it was a formality, or rather, a ritual which every new ICU occupant had to abide by, the nurse put on an oxygen mask on me even though I had no difficulty in breathing. The doctors at the hospital made me breathe in Rs 1,660 worth of oxygen from a cylinder when my lungs were very capable of taking it free from the air!
On day one of my confinement in the hospital’s ICU with eight to 10 beds per room, a child died due to kidney failure. Day two, an old man passed away. The morose moments in the special care ward did me no good for obvious reasons as I begged and pleaded with the doctors to shift me to a general ward. Finally, after two days of squeezing Rs 4,585 per day’s room expense and Rs 385 for sucking gallons of blood every day (or call it nursing care) at the ICU, they shifted me to a general ward.
After the five-day trauma at the hospital, I finally fought with the doctors and asked for discharge. The bill they handed to me was another shocker. Even though I did not pay from my pocket and the insurance company created no fuss in clearing the medical bill, I had spent Rs 39,474 for pneumonia!
Talk about affordable healthcare for all!