Thursday, November 20, 2014

Government hospitals-Are poor patients destined to be "under nourished" in these medical centers?

During the last few years India has earned a reputation as a destination for medical tourism mainly because of two reasons. First the hospitalization costs are a fraction of what it costs in countries like the US or in Europe. Second the expertise and facilities are almost on par with internationally famous hospitals else where. Added to this a few hospitals in India are so comfortable to stay in with facilities that can be the envy of a 5-star hotel! The foods served also are of multi cuisine type serving to the taste of most foreign guests/patients. While this development is really hear warming for all proud Indians, there is a dark side to this story. A vast majority of Indian citizens cannot afford these high cost hospitals, depending heavily on government run public hospitals for curing their illness. Unfortunately given a choice most people will shy away from most of these hospitals because of congestion, over crowding, sub-par facilities, poor hygiene and sanitation, lax doctors with no dedication or commitment. Most importantly non-availability of food service facilities, make them do with foods brought from home or bought from eateries nearby which can be a veritable place spreading infection and other undesirable consequences of bad food. Tamilnadu seems to be tying to tackle this problem by setting up its famous Amma Canteens which have become a popular program of the present government. Here is a take on this development which can be a model for other states.   

"The recently-opened Amma Canteen at the Kilpauk Medical College Hospital came with the promise of quality food at affordable rate through the day for the in-patients and visitors to the hospital. The promise also included timely delivery of food. Started more than a month ago, the canteen is a hit with the visitors, patients and staff at the hospital the canteen is a hit with the visitors, patients and staff at the hospital, as the first half of the promise has been fulfilled. The second half however remains to be fulfilled, according to some of those availing the services. The food is not being delivered on time and the lack of adequate staff at the canteen is said to be the reason. Visitors to the hospital say their joy would be complete if this issue is resolved. Before this Amma Canteen was established, relatives of the patients either bought home-made food or went out to buy food from hotels, mostly from those located near Taylor's Road, which is around two kilometres from the hospital. As most of the patients are from economically weak backgrounds , they are reluctant to buy food regularly from hotels. Most of the in-patients wait for their relatives to bring food from home. Sometimes, they (visitors) come late with food resulting in delay in taking food and medicines. Having Amma Canteen at KMC is a boon. It's just that they want the service be timely. Most of the government hospitals do not have full-fledged canteens on their premises. A few have Aavin booths where hot milk and other beverages are sold. Amma Canteens serve a variety of food including lemon rice, curry leaf rice, chapathi and idli."

Treatment of a patient has to be holistic and good food is a prerequisite for better recovery for every patient. Imagine the condition when each patient is accompanied by at least two relatives and with no over night staying facilities and food service options, the hospitals naturally  get cluttered with food liters strewn all around further deteriorating the environment. The Tamilnadu initiative will definitely give succor to convalescing patients by serving low cost foods with satisfactory quality and safety.  Regarding complaints that Amma Canteens are not delivering food to the patients in time, sufficient time will have to be given to the management to organize the same as the novel experiment has just started. Paucity of workers can pose initial hiccups which the authorities concerned will overcome eventually. What ever be the political differences among politicians, the Amma Canteen program must receive an applause for its poor people oriented tilt.


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