A series of surgeries amongst family and friends and a recent self experience opened my eyes to the new face of medical facilities in India. Gone are the days of dreary hospital stays. Circa 2010, the multi-specialty private hospitals have transformed hospitalization into an uber-cool experience with their state of the art facilities.
My earlier experience of hospital visits used to be to the big city hospitals such as AIIMS, Safdarjung, Manipal, BHU and so on. Entering into the huge facility teeming with people, figuring out the departments, the typical hospital smells and the sight of illness all around were enough to make one reel in exhaustion. But in the modern private hospitals, relationship managers usher you around the air-conditioned lobbies as counselors explain the various “packages” ranging from economy ( read general ward) to deluxe ( read private ward) to the suites. All kinds of luxuries are available based on the size of your pocket. The rooms are not only equipped with the latest in medical equipment but also with LCDs, refrigerators and classy furniture for your rest and recreation. If you can pay for the privacy, you can book a whole wing of the hospital to yourself with your own private entrance and elevator. Of course most of these facilities have enough celebrity patrons to boast about for whom such options have been created.
I still remember carrying food from home for relatives who were hospitalized. I and my cousin actually once fell of his bicycle as we lost our balance trying to accommodate the huge tiffin carrier. The home made “daal ka paani aur daliya” have been replaced with the 5 course meals customized to your need by the dietician. Dare you try to feed anything else to the patient. And not just for the patients, there are excellent food options for the attendants as well ranging from sumptuous meals in the cafeteria to the quick snacks available at the Nathus and the Café Coffee Day joints inside. The book shops, gift shops, ATMs, florists available in the hospital make your visit a more caring one. Right from your morning newspaper to the final post dinner coffee, if it were not for the innumerable knocks on the door and doctors and nurses breezing in and out of room, you would hardly remember that you are in the hospital.
As each of these centers become super-specialised, their focus and advancement in technology is amazing. Joint replacements, organ transplants and other such complicated surgeries are now taking place in abundance. With the advancement also comes the reduced turnaround time. Minimal invasive surgeries have made treatments for an inflamed appendicitis, meniscal tears etc absolutely unintimidating. What used to take a week of hospitalization and a month of bed rest has now been reduced to two days in the hospital and just about 10 days of rest. Even planning a major surgery is not a daunting task. As long as you have the finances, the paperwork, dates and the availability of doctors all works out like a dream.
With the 24 hour nursing and housekeeping services, even going in for hospitalization alone without any family support is easy. Infact most of these hospitals just allow one attendant to stay and only one visitor at a time. There are regular checks to see if you have someone stowed inside!
All this of course comes with a price. Just delivering a baby would mean shelling out INR 50000- 60000, appendicitis would cost you INR 70,000 and any major surgery easily involves an expense of INR 2-3 Lakhs. Affording these medical expenses without insurance is a luxury for a select few. For most, it turns out to be a nightmare. Medical tourism has only added further to the misery of the common Indian as people from abroad easily shell out dollars for this seemingly ‘cheaper’ treatment. Due to the commoditization of the noble profession, people also fear whether the prescribed treatment is actually required and seek the opinion of 3-4 doctors for any major illness. And sometimes, despite the world class equipment, the efficiency of the staff still has a long way to go and patients feel they have been shortchanged.
Apart from the cost, this entire experience has taken away the simpler pleasures such as the humor of friends beside your hospital bed trying to cheer you up. The strict visiting hours and the even stricter security guards have replaced the visiting near and dear ones with the constant irritating ringing of the cell phone. Mom’s hand soothingly applying lotion on your sore back now waits for the doctor to prescribe it lest something goes wrong, The number of visits from unknown doctors examining you makes you feel like a toy in a window shop that everyone gets to see and touch as you wait for the actual buyer, your main doctor to come and provide a solution to your problems. Specialists supervise multiple surgeries through their teams in one shot and in some cases the patient doesn’t even get to see the actual operating surgeon amongst the unnecessary doctor visits.
But as you walk out in a few days, earlier than you feared, the signs of good health in a comfortable sanitized environment make this other side of the picture much less uglier. In an age when our lifestyle is causing us to seek medical attention much earlier than our parents did, such medical infrastructure around us definitely is the silver lining in the cloud.