June 03, 2008

Health disparities in India

The International Herald Tribune has a story posted that speaks to health disparities in India. The article contrasts the care provided by two very different hospitals.

Wockhardt is a state-of-the-art private hospital that provides 5-Star service. Patients have private rooms overlooking gardens. Cable TV and computers are just a few steps away. There is even ice cream in a mini fridge in case of an afternoon craving.

The government run hospital, Bowring, is a different story. Patients are brought by family members to a place with no dialysis machines, no ventilators, and no ICU. Dinner is a few slices of white bread on a plate.

One of the issues discussed in the article is that of utilization. The private hospital has plenty of life saving equipment that goes unused. So while patients die from lack of dialysis at Bowring dialysis machines sit idle at Wockhardt.

At Bowring, one of the young doctors, named Harish, said a ventilator and a dialysis machine would have allowed him to keep half of his patients alive. The most severe case, Mohammed Amin, was breathing with the aid of a hand pump that his wife squeezed silently.

Harish sent the relative of one man to get blood tests done at the nearest private hospital; there was no equipment to do the test here.

According to the article a survey of Indian households found that across social classes people prefer private care over government facilities. Why? Because of quality.

The government run health centers in India are understaffed. 53% of pediatric positions are not filled. Government doctors earn less than private doctors and aggressive recruiting by private hospitals allow them to lure physicians who have worked and trained abroad.

Ironically, the luxurious private hospitals in India are bargains for Americans looking to save money. One American, Robin Steeles, paid $20,000 to have a mitral valve repaired. According to the article, that's about 10% of what it would cost in the U.S.

EXTRA: Just noticed that the Connecticut Health Policy Project has a blog focused on health care in Connecticut. They've been added to my RSS feed.

Posted by Staff at 07:30 AM
Category: Health Disparities; Socioeconomic Status; class differences; health care access; icu

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