Medical Catering: A Business That Must Go!

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Dr Rajas Deshpande

Pune, 27th September 2021: About twelve years ago, my then boss called me well after midnight. “Rajas, a VVIP friend of mine needs to see you. I have given him your number. Please attend him, he is a big industrialist”.

Within seconds, a new number appeared as an incoming. I love medical emergencies, they bring out the best within a doctor.

“Dr. Rajas? Hi! I must see you immediately. Where are you?” an impatient voice asked.

It was 2 AM.

“I am out with a friend“ I had to lie, if my experienced sensors were to be correct.

“Where’s your home, doc? I want to come and see you right now “ he said, in an authoritarian voice.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“I can’t tell you details on phone, but it could be an emergency “- just send me your address, I will reach there”.

“Sorry, I don’t see patients at home, please come to this hospital, I will have my casualty doctor check you and if required I will come there to see you”. I said patiently.

The phone disconnected.

In a minute, my boss called again. He knew my temper, he spoke very gently- “Hey, Rajas, please do me this favour yaar- he can’t come to the casualty- he doesn’t want people to know anything- please either see him at your home or his- do it for me “.

I went and saw the VVIP at his home at 2.20 AM as an exception. I hate it when someone takes advantage, but I decided to give the patient advantage of a true emergency and kept calm. I was escorted by a few commando bodyguards as the security dogs kept barking.

A junior doctor who accompanied the VVIP 24/7, gave me a short update. There was a suspicion of stroke. After examination, I started treatment and advised them to get some tests done, including an MRI. By then I had received a message from the boss- “Please don’t charge him, he has donated for our hospital “.

The tests showed a mini-stroke, and we counselled the patient for lifestyle changes and medicines required to avoid such strokes in future. There was nothing beyond a formal thank you for what was done, and I was happy to do it for my boss was very helpful always.

About six months later, I met the same patient outside the airport, as it rained heavily while I struggled to find a taxi. He recognised me from far away, waved a hand, sat in his car and went away. He must be in a hurry!

Another patient who came to see me in his jet plane once got upset for having to await his turn in the waiting room. As soon as he came in, he named a celebrity doctor in India- a big name in my branch- and told me – “You know, even Dr XYZ doesn’t make us wait- he attends us immediately in his private chamber, even if he is with another patient “. I didn’t reply.

This is a common experience- VIP culture in medicine where the ultra-rich and people in authority take doctors and specialists for granted, pressurise them and misuse facilities- it is turning into a shameful practice now. The same people publicly bashing doctors is an irony, but also a well-deserved punishment for the profession.

A doctor who discriminates between rich, famous and poor patients is not only a shameful phenomenon but a blot on the grace and dignity of this noble profession. Some have to do it to please authorities, some must do it out of fear of action by seniors, but the most depraved are those doctors who do it voluntarily to hit and shine with a certain higher class. These doctors have friends only in rich and high places, take painful care to be seen with ministers and celebrities, and are never polite -leave aside friendly- with the lower classes, students, residents and even colleagues.

Many authorities misuse medical facilities and specialists by calling them home, this includes highly placed officers from almost all fields. In my experience, it is only the police officers who follow the protocol and politely wait their turn and never abuse the services of doctors.

“Medical Catering” where doctors and hospitals go out of the way to attract, please and dance to the demands of rich and famous, authorities and social heavyweights must go. Not only is it humiliating and painful for the regular poor or middle-class patients to face such discrimination, but it is also a shame and disgrace that we must recognise and discourage.

Dr Rajas Deshpande

(Dr Rajas Deshpande topped post-doctoral Neurology from Mumbai University and worked with advanced Neuroscience set up in London Ontario Canada, before returning to India. His post-doctoral fellowships in Parkinson’s disease, movement disorders Multiple Sclerosis made him aware of the lack of such care in India and prompted him to bring this expertise to To his country. He is Director Neurology at the Ruby Hall Clinic Pune and is also associated with Jupiter Hospital and Lilavati Hospital Mumbai. He has written a book titled “The Doctor Gene” to educate people and medical students about doctors. He has worked via various social platforms to improve the endangered doctor-patient relationship.

He can be contacted on 09922753753