Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Winds of change - 7

(This is the seventh part of a short story which is entirely a work of fiction.)

Dr. Som had just finished his consultations for the day. A bunch of Medical Representatives were waiting to meet him.

Medical Reps, as they are called represented the ugly underbelly of Indian healthcare. At the surface, there was nothing wrong with introducing a doctor to new products and their benefits. However, things were not that simple.  Medical Reps had to meet stringent targets set by their companies. They were encouraged to lure doctors with incentives of all kinds. These ranged from cash, a credit card which would be paid by the company, domestic and foreign holidays albeit in the name of attending conferences, fuel vouchers and some rather not so honourable arrangements. In return for these incentives, doctors had to either prescribe their drugs or use their products for procedures. Of course, these products would have been cleared by the regulatory authorities but some could be inferior to others and these incentives ensured that doctors prescribed them despite having known this.

In a world full of corruption, some doctors felt that the patient is not being harmed, so what was the problem if they made some additional money? They would have usually spent a bomb getting themselves educated. Today, many seats in Post Graduate courses can be obtained only after paying a few crores. Even doctors are human beings with needs. After years of slogging hard, weren’t they entitled to some basic privileges? Weren’t they entitled to a comfortable life?

Dr. Som saw the Medical Reps quickly, one by one. Usually, these Reps are a little discrete. They would explain the drug and then slide in a sheet that would have, without any overt branding of the company the details of the incentives. Some would be more brazen and talk about the incentive structure openly. One such person who met Dr. Som that day leaned forward after explaining the basic incentives and whispered softly, “If you use 50 catheters by the end of the quarter, we could arrange a holiday for you without ma’am at Pattaya.”

Dr. Som was red with rage. “What do you think I am? Get out right now!” He flung the brochure and the incentive sheets on the face of the bewildered Rep. “What are you waiting for? You bloody pimp. Get out right now!” Hearing the noise, Dr. Som’s office boy rushed in. “Throw him out!”, Dr. Som exclaimed. The Rep was trembling. “Sorry sir. Never again sir. Sorry sir.” The office boy ushered the Rep out. Dr. Som drank a glass of water, calmed himself down and called his secretary on the intercom. “No more Reps for today.”

Dr. Som got up and went towards the elevator. He went to the terrace of the hospital. He walked over to his favourite spot. He saw the sun setting over the resplendent Godavari. The calm waters of the river wore a golden hue due to the rays of the sun. In the distance he could see a few boats being rowed by lonely fishermen. A gentle breeze was blowing. He stood leaning against the wall and took in the fresh air and the scene that was a natural balm for his anguished mind. He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths.

“This must change”, he thought to himself. “I will change this.”

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