Written by Dr. Roshan Radhakrishnan (anesthesiologist) this article captures the image of a doctor’s life in India perfectly, so much so that it gave me a panic attack today.
Beginning my journey in the same profession I can ascertain that every word he has written is as true as the fact that I have never held a bagpipes rock and roll concert in the middle of Antarctica.
A pup was walking down the street when it came across a group of young boys. The leader of the group spotted the dog and pointed it out to his friends. Seeing the boys, the dog too wagged his tail and barked, looking forward to being petted and making new friends.
However,even as the pup wagged his tail, one of the boys picked up a stone. The boy turned to the others and told them how dogs are bad because another dog had bitten his grandfather years ago. As he nodded, a second boy picked up another stone even as he spoke of the incessant barking of stray dogs in his neighbourhood at night, disturbing the sleep of his family. A third spoke of how dogs are bad because of religious reasons. The others realized the wisdom in their friends’ words and each picked up a stone, aware now that breeds like this could not be trusted. The pup stood where he was, confused as he watched the boys come closer to him.
By the time night had descended upon the land, the boys had dispersed and gone to their individual homes. There was a sense of accomplishment, having stopped a menace from entering their streets. Lying bloodied and brutalized, the pup that had wagged his tail in hope of giving and receiving love licked its wounds. It was too young to know that the physical wounds would heal in due time… but it was now old enough to have learned to distrust the species of stone throwers. The most selfless creature since time immemorial now knew to hate… because that was what it received for no fault of its own. For the crimes of others, it had paid with its body and soul.
That, in a nutshell, is the reason why I will never allow you, my child, to become a doctor in India.
Still confused, I guess? It is okay. Take a chair and sit down… this is going to take awhile.
Increasingly, I find myself watching and talking to doctors across two generations and various specialties these days. And increasingly, that sense of despair and disillusionment is writ large in their words. They find themselves wondering where things went wrong even as they struggle to bring a smile on their faces. With 0.7 doctors per 1000 Indians, the doctor:patient ratio is far below that of other comparable countries like China (1.9), United Kingdom (2.8) and United States (2.5). Spain’s 4.9 seems like an absolute luxury in comparison, I must admit. What this means in layman’s terms is simply this – that you are always going to be swamped with patients beyond the logical human capacity in India.
Thou shalt sacrifice your time, parents, spouse and child.
Getting a 63 hour a week schedule (7 days x 9 hours) is a blessing and most of the young guns who join in fresh after post graduation know fully well that a 100 hour a week schedule is par for the course once you begin working. And sadly, this is advocated and in fact encouraged by most hospitals too – who wouldn’t want to have workers in a contract which states 8 hours a day and then get them to work 14, stating that ‘this is how it is for all doctors and besides, we are in the business of selfless service.’ You would never allow a taxi driver to drive you for 24 hours continuously but asking surgeons to do that every third day is fair game in India, apparently.
For those who wonder why the doctor’s fees is Rs.200-500 (~$2.92 – 7.30) almost the same as a plumber’s charges for fixing a broken pipe. . .
And for those who appreciate the years worth of sleepless nights behind those lines of prescription, please read the complete article below.