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Showing posts with label Hospital. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hospital. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

How Narendra Modi Conquered Coronavirus

(Image: Twitter/ANI)

"No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it." -Andrew Carnegie

Much like George W. Bush once prematurely declared victory in Iraq, our Prime Minister started taking victory laps in mid-February this year when he proclaimed that …the whole world was worried about India's situation. But today India's fight against corona (coronavirus) is inspiring the entire world…

No matter that the World Health Organization, our medical fraternity, immunologists and scientists the world over warned that complacency could have devastating consequences for India. And that no country would be safe until at least 85% of the population is vaccinated.

On 7th March 2021, the Indian Health Minister boldly declared at a Delhi Medical Association gathering that “We are in the end game of the COVID-19 pandemic in India.” Adding that India was now the ‘world’s pharmacy’, boasting that we had shipped “5.5 crore vaccines to 62 different countries.”

What he failed to mention was that claiming the moniker of world’s pharmacy meant Indians would get fewer vaccines. India’s current vaccination rate is 9.4%, which lags Brazil (12.8%) and Turkey (15.6%). At this pace, it will take another 600 days to vaccinate enough Indians to achieve herd immunity. Shortages have now become so acute that 94 vaccination sites were recently closed for three days in Bombay, even as India was reporting nearly 400,000 Covid cases daily. 

It would seem that the BJP government decided having Mr. Modi strut on the world stage claiming to be the world’s pharmacy was more important than prioritising vaccinating our own citizens, as every other nation did.

Then, as if to prove that he is not just a man of words, Mr. Modi started holding massive election rallies across West Bengal. These rallies had thousands of people in attendance without masks or social distancing because naturally Mr. Modi’s aura was enough to strike fear into the heart of coronavirus.

Just over a week ago Mr. Modi tweeted from a rally sayingHave never ever seen such huge crowds at a rally” and added “wherever I look, I see people, only people”. It would seem that his aura has faded because in the past week West Bengal reported the highest spike in a single day, and instituted lockdowns due to an alarming rise in cases.

The next coronavirus showdown occurred in late March. By now the second wave was well under way and the double mutant variant had been identified, but Mr. Modi refused to cower. Instead, he appeared in full-page ads in national newspapers welcoming devotees to Kumbh Mela, an annual pilgrimage for Hindus.

A courageous leader might have cancelled a gathering of hundreds of thousands of people traveling from all over the country to wash their sins in the Ganges, but not our Prime Minister, destroyer of corona. He made sure the masses got their opium, even if it meant risking their lives.

The ads not only encouraged the young, old and infirm to attend but claimed that the festival was “clean” and “safe”. On being asked, the Chief Minister of the state told the media that the festival would not be cancelled because “Maa Ganga’s blessings are there in the flow. So, there should be no corona…” Incidentally, this man once compared Mr. Modi to Lord Ram. No word yet on whether India plans to export water from the Ganga, along with vaccines.

In Assam the Health Minister, also BJP, declared in April, “There is no Covid in Assam... there is no need to wear a face mask..." When his comments were mocked by the opposition and the media, he took to twitter inviting them to visit Assam, boasting that his state had eliminated Covid, unlike states run by opposition parties.

They must have accepted his invite, because as of this week Assam is witnessing an alarming rise in positive cases across the state. The situation is so bad that they have not only had to impose a nightly curfew but are having to source oxygen from Bhutan.

In Gujarat, Mr. Modi’s home state, an MLA was asked if the spike in cases there might be a result of local elections held in late February. He responded saying thatWorkers of the BJP have done work, have done labour work and none of them has been infected.” We hear this former Science and Technology minister, along with the Chief Minister, state BJP chief and several other MLAs all tested positive for Covid-19. Clearly, they must have been shirking their work.

Yet another BJP luminary, a minister from Madhya Pradesh, recently explained to the media why Modi’s administration should be absolved of all responsibility for this crisis. He said that “Nobody can stop these deaths….People get old and they have to die.” Let’s hope he shares this wisdom with the WHO.

Over the last year, instead of building hospital capacity, oxygen plants and stockpiling life-saving medicines, as WHO and various health experts recommended, it seems Mr. Modi had his finest yoga mind work on developing a drug to fight Covid-19.

Coronil, the Ayurvedic wonder drug was launched with great fanfare in February, with the Indian Health and Union ministers proudly sharing the stage and endorsing it. Baba Ramdev stated that his “research-based medicine” showed 100% recovery for Covid positive patients, in an astounding 3-7 days. Turns out his research was conducted on only 100 people, unlike dumb Western studies that waste time recruiting thousands of participants for research trials. Indian ingenuity at its finest!

The yoga baba claimed that this marvel of science was approved by the WHO. We are still trying to confirm who exactly approved it because the World Health Organisation was quick to issue a tweet saying they have “not reviewed or certified the effectiveness of any traditional medicine for the treatment of #COVID19.”

Even before this wonder drug was created, BJP leaders were not shy to offer Indians various remedies to boost immunity and protect against coronavirus. In July last year, the West Bengal BJP chief told people to drink cow urine. “This is India, the land of Lord Krishna, and here we worship cows. We will have cow urine to stay healthy.” We are reliably informed that those who took his advice are now, indeed, closer to God.

While Mr. Modi has no fear of coronavirus, he does tremble at the sight of a free press and lacks the courage to hold himself accountable to the people who elected him. By the time he finally appeared on national TV India’s healthcare systems had collapsed, crematoriums were overwhelmed and we had widespread shortages of oxygen, plasma, Remdesivir and other life-saving medicines, all across the country.

Mr. Modi is convinced that his long white beard and flowing designer garbs are enough to calm the nation and stop people from complaining about losing loved ones, because he was still unable to offer a plan of action to steer the country out of the worst crisis we have faced since our Independence.

He did acknowledge that the challenge before us is big and that “we have to overcome it with our resolve, courage and preparation” but was not able to explain why, more than a year into the pandemic, his administration was so woefully unprepared.

As infections and deaths continue to break new records each day, states have mandated strict lock downs and banned all non-essential activities. However, Mr. Modi has made an exception for his Rs 20,000 crore pet project to redevelop a 3.2 km stretch of Delhi built by the British. The Central Vista project will needlessly tear down and rebuild several iconic landmarks and construct a new Parliament building.

Since the Central Vista is a vanity project, tied to his legacy, bids were fast-tracked and the entire process was conducted far from the prying eyes of the media, and awarded without a public consultation. Coincidentally, the winning bid went to a firm from Gujarat known to have close ties to Mr. Modi.

Yet, for some reason sanctioning oxygen plants took his government eight full months into the pandemic, just to start inviting bids. Only 11 of 162 plants have been built, and only 5 are operational. The budget for oxygen plants was a meagre 201 crore, while 917 crore was allocated to rebuild a Parliament building that everybody agrees does not need to be rebuilt.

As if mocking the plight of Indians desperately gasping for air, Mr. Modi’s Union Minister recently told the media that the blame lay with state governments who were not “controlling demand” for oxygen. It seems that in a country of 1.4 billion people our government believes that it is resources and not lives that are most precious and must be preserved.

One could forgive Mr. Modi if this crisis had transpired at the beginning of the pandemic when every leader was caught flat footed. Also, we know that unlike Western countries, it is harder in India to institute endless lockdowns, as the overwhelming majority of Indians are unable to zoom to work. For millions of Indians a lockdown can mean starving to death.

However, what cannot be excused, one year into this pandemic, is the fact that the Modi government did nothing to build capacity in the healthcare system, stockpile oxygen and other lifesaving treatments, knowing that it was just a matter of time before the virus would mutate and become more deadly.

Mr. Modi surrounded himself with loyalists and instead of experts. He never assembled a Covid Task Force to monitor the situation or to develop plans to deal with outbreaks and surges, and transfer medical supplies and other things to areas most in need. Instead, he stood on the
stage at Davos this year and boasted, “We worked on strengthening the Covid specific health infrastructure, trained our human resources to tackle the pandemic and used technology massively for testing and tracking of the cases.”

Mr. Modi has gone out of his way to behave like the pandemic is over and his administration has instead encouraged people to stop taking even basic precautions, refused to limit public gatherings, lifted restrictions on massive Indian weddings, religious festivals and election rallies and they have severely botched India’s vaccination rollout plan, choosing instead to ship desperately needed vaccines to far flung corners of the globe.

In less than two terms Mr. Modi has succeeded in taking a proud seventy-four-year-old nation from shining example of democracy and powerhouse of economic growth, to laughing stock of the world. The incompetence, complacency and ineptitude Mr. Modi and his administration have demonstrated during this pandemic rival that of banana republics and failed states like Venezuela.

We know Mr. Modi, cares deeply about his public image and legacy. He now assuredly holds a special place in the heart of every Indian who has lost a grandparent, parent, spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle or child due to his government's apathy and ineptitude.

Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, was responsible for giving birth to India. 

Narendra Modi will forever be remembered as the man who brought death to India.

My heart goes out to everyone, as I spend every moment worrying about my mother, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, friends and their kids - all one symptom away from a life-threatening emergency, or worse.

What makes me livid is the fact this situation was avoidable and unnecessary. More than a year into the global pandemic, the Modi administration’s lack of preparedness is beyond inexcusable. It is criminally negligent.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One Man’s Case against Healthcare Reform

“The trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind.”
G.K. Chesterton

I come to praise the healthcare system in the United States, and not to bury it. Mine is a story filled with all the trappings of a Hollywood medical drama, one that involves a mysterious, undiagnosable illness, a sports injury that refused to go away and got aggravated across continents, midnight trips to the Emergency Room, 911 calls and a myriad of specialists in various fields of medicine. Last year, almost the day after I quit my job, to take time off to travel and spend with my wife, family and friends I developed a sudden breathing problem. Of course, for the 37 years of my life that went before this, I had pretty much managed to stay away from doctor’s offices and hospitals. And the truth is that I rarely ever fell ill despite always having great medical insurance, which I cried about never really putting to any good use or getting my money’s worth; little did I know that in one short year I was about to make up for the last 37.

The week I handed in my resignation letter, we made our first trip to the ER courtesy of a hospital hospitality vehicle known more commonly as an ambulance. Yes, my wife actually called 911. I am not a hypochondriac, or someone who panics about things, ever. So, naturally when I started to have trouble breathing one night, and it got progressively worse to the point where I was leaning out our fourth floor window gasping for air, unable to speak while slowly turning blue, my wife made the call. I was discharged a few hours later after a series of test that included a chest x-ray, an EKG and blood tests, all of which the doctors said were clear. Their best offer of a diagnosis was a bronchial spasm, resulting from a recent case of the flu. I was asked to report to my General Physician for follow-up. We left the hospital without so much as having to part with our co-pay, having been told that they would bill us later. Rather wonderful, I thought to myself, not only the ER’s thoughtfulness and hospitality, but also this insurance coverage of mine. Because I was painfully aware that a trip to the ER in New York City is far from cheap. In fact, it rivals a night at the priciest 5 Star hotels in the world, without even including the added luxury and cost of getting there in an ambulance. I am reliably informed that the total cost of such a trip can be as much as few thousand dollars – again I say thank god for insurance. Now, this is not to say that I was never going to be billed any amount. In fact approximately a month later I received a notice from my insurance company saying that the hospital was entitled to bill me $100 for my share of the co-pay and they also informed me that they had paid 15% of the total cost submitted to them by the ER. Again I marveled at the fact that I had such great insurance. Not only was my share of the cost less than 2% of the total, but my insurance company was also refusing to submit to daylight robbery and pay the hospital the true cost of my care. Bravo, I say. In fact I had to make two additional trips in the months that followed, and am still to receive a single bill from this hospital, one and a half years on.

The other gratifying thing I learned in my subsequent trips to the ER is that nobody is turned away or denied care. A number of people in the ER waiting room said they did not have any insurance, and instead of being turned away as one would have expected, the hospital attendant said that it was not a problem and that once they filled out a form stating a lack of insurance, they would get access to the care they needed for free. While I was still pondering this it dawned on me that this might perhaps be the reason my insurance premium is so high, and continues to increase each year even though I have not availed of it in the years prior. Perhaps, I am paying for the poor families who cannot afford insurance (and out of work actors, unemployed graduates, couples who just chose a more expensive mortgage over insurance, etc.) and that would certainly explain the high cost of my premiums and continual increases over the years. This realization made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, as I sat there clutching my Gold plated insurance card, waiting to hand it over to the registration clerk, confident in the knowledge that I was doing my bit to help society.

Anyway, my story and praise for the current system is far from over. Another great relief with the current system has to do with the safety net they provide when one becomes unemployed by accident or by choice. This marvelous little provision is known as Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act or COBRA. Anyone who was previously covered under their company’s group insurance is eligible and cannot be denied continued coverage for a period of eighteen months. The only difference is that the cost of the premium, that was being covered by your employer, must now be paid entirely by you. Due to this the monthly increase is roughly two to fourfold depending on how generous your employer was. There are those who grumble and complain about this increase, they say that it comes at a time when you can ill (no pun intended) afford extra costs, now that you are no longer receiving a pay cheque. But I say pish-pash to them, for one has to pay for such privileges. And besides, it is only in moments that one is less busy that one typically has time to linger on ailments that otherwise may never have surfaced. As a result, one can argue that unemployed people are more susceptible to health issues, as they have more time on their hands to dwell on small ailments, making of them bigger things and thus spending more time visiting doctors and hospitals. I am a case in point. I had been to the doctor maybe 12 times in last 37 years and the moment I quit my job I must have made, without exaggeration, at least 37 visits in less than 12 months. It would have been grossly unfair for me to expect my previous employer, the government, or worse yet, the poor taxpayer, to have paid for my health trespasses. My GP directed me to visit an ENT, who sent me to a pulmonologist, who in turn directed me to a gastroenterologist and so on. After each one conducted a battery of tests, often repeating the same ones done by the previous specialist, they ruled out a number of things, but none of them could figure out what was causing my continued breathing problem. Oh, and did I mention that along the way I even had to meet with a foot specialist? Not that this was in any way related to my mysterious breathing problem.

Which brings me to our world travels, during which time my right foot acted up, and I also needed to have emergency eye surgery. I knew something was afoot when my right ankle swelled up during a visit to San Francisco. We iced it and got an ankle brace and in a few days I felt much better. The next time it acted up again was when I played a round of golf in Rajasthan, a few months later, and then it finally came to a head while I was trekking in Bhutan. All this while I had managed to deftly avoid another doctor visit, but after the Bhutan trip, when I was walking with a knee brace, an ankle cast and a walking stick I could no longer avoid the inevitable. Now, as it happens we were in India at this juncture, where my insurance was neither valid nor accepted. I hobbled to the nearest highly recommended orthopedic surgeon, who naturally ordered a battery of x-rays and tests. At the very same time, again right after I quit my job of course, the sty on my eye had also reached a critical stage, and besides the pain my vanity was also now at stake. So we found a well-regarded local ophthalmologist who, upon his first examination of my eye, declared that I would need surgery to remove the now errant sty. The pain in my foot and eye both dissipated as I began to think about the strain my unemployed wallet was about to feel. Needless to say that I could not live without the services of my foot or eye, and opted to go ahead with both the surgery and the long list of tests the orthopedist had ordered. When I received the bill, for both the tests as well as for the eye surgery, I did a double take, because the total cost, including a series of x-rays, blood and urine tests and an outpatient surgery, were less than the cost of a single co-pay for a specialist in the United States. I thought at first that it must be a mistake, but then I realized that this was India. Of course, the equipment that these doctors use is probably much older and not the same state-of-the-art equipment used by the medical fraternity here. Plus, these Indian doctors don’t have fancy Harvard or Cornell medical degrees. And the biggest reason is that these Indian doctors are not made to pay for medical mistakes. Indians are generally quite a forgiving people and nobody sues a Doctor because they save lives, and are well meaning and only try to do the right thing by their patients. So, naturally with their older equipment, lesser degrees and more forgiving patients they can afford to charge much less for the same services. I realized that it was really not a fair basis to make any kind of comparison between the costs of care in these two countries, and besides, the issue had more to do with the people who sue at the drop of a hat, and not the fault of the private health insurance industry in America. So, I happily paid my 100% share of their bills and rushed back to the protective cover of my Gold plated insurance in the U.S.

The next few months I spent running from specialist to specialist, in-between my physical therapy appointments, which I had to do twice a week to heal my still injured right foot. Just around the time I could no longer bear the thought of another hospital waiting room or the sight of a person in a white gown, my wife suggested I try one last person, her allergist. Thankfully, I had enough breath left in me to see the man who finally diagnosed my problem, and sent me to the head of one of New York’s most prestigious hospital’s Otolaryngology Department, to ratify his hypothesis. I had laryngeal neuropathy. The new specialist prescribed the necessary medication and sent me to a Voice Therapist to help strengthen my larynx. With my breathing issue under control my right foot seemed to be getting worse. My doctor ordered an MRI as he said that x-rays do not always tell the full story and that it should have been well on the way to recovery by now. So I called the MRI place to make an appointment and set it up for a week from that date. The day I was supposed to go for my MRI, I got a call from the place and they told me not to come as the insurance company had not yet approved the request for my MRI. At first I was shocked and confused about why my insurance would deny something my doctor felt was necessary. Ultimately, after another week passed and my Doctor even called the insurance company to re-iterate the need to get one but to no avail. Instead, I got a letter from their cost consultants saying that after reviewing the necessary data on my condition (not sure what they looked at) they felt that an MRI was not called for and they added that this was done primarily for my benefit. It seems, in their experience Doctor’s often order needless tests, which ultimately wastes money, and only serves to raise the cost of my care. Gosh, not only was my insurance company looking out for my well being, from errant Doctors, but they were also looking to save me money, to say I was touched would be putting it mildly.

Based on my yearlong odyssey, I don’t understand what the entire hullabaloo is about, in terms of the Democrats’ urgency to fix the US healthcare system. I am living proof of the fact the current system works, and works rather well with all its meanderings, negotiations, graces, and non-billing after traumatic ER experiences. In fact it seems to work to everyone's advantage; except maybe the doctors, but then again we all know that doctor’s are overpaid anyway…right?