I would like to get the attention of the concerned authority towards rampant open extortion of patient party visiting the emergency and Casualty departments of Government Hospital like JNIMS and RIMS by pharmacy runners in collaboration with the Doctors on Duty.
Recently due to a physical illness, I had to rush my mother to JNIMS Casualty section for immediate medical attention. It was our first time visiting the casualty department and quite understandably very chaotic scene everywhere. Casualty patients and their family members were rushing everywhere trying to get the attention of the Doctors on duty and most of the folks were visibly stressed. One patient tried to commit suicide and was brought in for consuming poison another one brought in on stretchers and many other serious cases like that.
Amid all the chaos, we were struggling to find a doctor we were approached by a young man in shorts and sandals. He ushered us to the room where the Doctors on duty were sitting. The Doctor immediately paid attention to my mother and started doing examination at the advice of the guy in shorts. The doctor wrote down the names of some medicine on a piece of paper which was not a letterhead and immediately gave it to the guy in shorts. We were little bit surprised to see how proactively this guy in short and sandals was more than willing to help us. When we asked the doctor where we can get the medicine, the doctor asked us to take the help of the guy in shorts and sandals.
Since, we were in a state of panic and our focus was to get the attention of the doctor and to find a bed for my mother to rest, we didn’t pay attention to enquire about the doctor’s prescription. On the advice of the doctor we talked to the guy in Shorts and Sandals whom we thought might be a good Samaritan helping folks in the casualty section about the medicine and where we can get it. He mentioned those medicines are rare and will have to get from outside the JNIMS main gate and he said he can get it for us. It was only me and my brother to look after our ailing mother so we asked him to get it for us if possible.
To our utter surprise the guy came back with a satchel of medicine within about 5 mins. There was no way he would have walked from JNIMS Causality department to JNIMS main gate and get back with the medicine in 5 mins. When we enquired about the Cash memo he mentioned he came in a hurry so couldn’t get it and he will get it for us then we can pay for the medicine.
After about 15 mins the guy came back to us with a cash memo of a total bill of INR 1290.00 with patient name as “ATC” and prescribed by doctor “JNIMS”. Things started looking bit shady when the same guy and his other friends casually dressed in shorts and sandals were again ushering other patients coming to Casualty department and giving out sachet of medicine to other patient party which surprising looked very similar the one given to us and we overheard them saying the same story about cash memo to other patients. My brother decided to follow him and to our utter surprise the guy was writing the cash memo himself in a corner of the hospital writing MRP prices of the medicine on them. Next thing we saw only one block from the causality department there was a huge JNIMS Pharmacy written in bold letters “Pradhan Mantri Bharatiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra “where medicines were sold at “Tax Free” Rates and we enquired about the prescribed medicines. The pharmacist mentioned they don’t have the medicine written on the cash memo but they have ones with similar composition. All that the doctor prescribed was a Paracetamol and an Anti-Biotic which was about 1/9 the price mentioned in our Prescription and was available in the JNIMS Pharmacy.
A price hike of about 900%!!! My question is if a medicine was available in JNIMS pharmacy with same composition at a much cheaper price why did the doctor prescribed something which was 900% more expensive? Why didn’t the doctor tell us about the JNIMS Pharmacy as a first option instead of directing us to connect with the guy in Shorts and Sandals who was a runner sent out by Pharmacy outside JNIMS?
We decided to confront the Pharmacy Runner and let him know what he was doing was wrong and morally incorrect. Taking advantage of Panicked patient party in their most vulnerable situation by forcing them to buy high price medicines when the same can be purchased at a much cheaper rate from the hospital pharmacy. The pharmacy runner apologized about his wrong doing and offered us to keep the medicines for free and to keep our mouth shut and let it be the way it is. We decided to give him the money anyways because he helped us and admitted to his mistake but if we kept silent, we though we will not be a concerned citizen ourselves.
We decided to run through the Medicines prescribed by the Doctor with our family pharmacy and to our utter surprise he told us that everyone knows about it and its pretty common. Doctors in Emergency ward partner with Pharmacies and sell expensive and high price medicines and get commission out of it that is prevenient in most government Hospital.
My question to everyone is, if everyone knows about it and it’s a prescribed norm and known scam being practiced in our government hospitals does that make it right? Is it justified in moral sense to take advantage of panic stricken patient party in their most vulnerable situation just for some extra cash and where does it stop? If the doctors and pharmacies started putting the monetary benefit even before the life of the patient and its needs where is the moral code of conduct being sworn in by Medical practitioners upheld? And it is not a small amount we are talking about, on average the initial medicine package costs about INR 1500 and if 50 people comes for casualty on daily basis, that’s a sales potential of about 1500*50 which is around INR 75000 daily!!! Way more than any pharmacy can generate on daily basis. If such malpractices are happening in open in government hospitals what can we expect from Private hospitals for whom profit margin is the main driving factor of conducting their business. If the argument is government hospital doctors don’t have “side-income”, then why is everyone running after government jobs. I think they get paid pretty decent salary compared to any other profession specially in Manipur, if monetary benefit is their main priority, why don’t they setup up a private establishment. I feel a Government hospital is where the rich and the poor should be able to avail medical facilities at a much reasonable rate where such malpractices shouldn’t be allowed to function as it is not a “for profit” organization.
We were lucky that we had cash in our pocket and we could afford the medicine price, what about someone met with an accident and came in without cash into the Casualty department. Wouldn’t the doctors pay attentions to them because they couldn’t afford the price of medicine prescribed to them at the moment. We feel it is an act of extortion openly conducted in our Government hospitals and it should stop now and the public should be made aware of it hence we are writing this mail to your esteem media channel to spread the awareness and raise the issue to concerned authorities to take action in the interest of the masses and general public.