Health PR needs resurrection

By Ranjan Das Gupta

Elvis Presley in his immortal song, In The Ghetto, spoke of a Negro Mother who cried pathetically after her son was born. The child was forced to become a criminal with a gun in hand by cruel circumstances. He died a tragic death. The tragedy struck the mother who cried even more when her second son was born.
This song has a universal essence. Countless mothers are crying as their sons, daughters, husbands and themselves are getting affected by the deadly COVID-19 virus. In India, the scenario is better than the more developed West.
Public relation in our national health area is in its infancy. It has not matured in the true sense. In big corporate hospitals, it is limited to developing image through flow of media news. Many times facts are suppressed. Business development by hook or crook is the motto of healthcare public relation.
Doctors, paramedical staff and medical technicians work round the clock. Sick and ill people look up to doctors who can cure them. Social analyst Purna Krishna Bajpai mentions only 19 per cent of our doctors appointed in hospitals work with the right approach. The remaining 81 per cent are involved in developing medical care as a corporate business.
Doctors are not always to be blamed. The common public and its lack of patience are also responsible for the deterioration of the situation. Doctors have at large decreased proper medical attention to patients and are more interested in filling their pockets. Besides, their behaviour with patient parties is not at all healthy. Thus their public relation efforts in developing confidence of patients are taking a back seat.
This is a painful scenario and it is getting worse. Patients losing all hope in the medical fraternity are thus resorting to meaningless violence of assaulting doctors. There are of course exceptions. Dr B Pratap Reddy of IMA, Telangana, is suffering from acute colon cancer. Yet he possesses all energy and enthusiasm to put forward the fact that costs, import duties and taxes on all essential medical equipment should be removed. He also advocates the cause of the best treatment to be made available for the poorest.
Fortunately, many of his ideas are proving to be true. Ironically, such examples are few in India. The concept of classless society with medical insurance for all is hypothetical in India. The cold war between government and corporate hospitals has gone up alarmingly. The corona scare has certainly compelled all healthcare sectors to come on a common platform. That is with the motto to save affected souls. The Supreme Court has issued instructions that those who are within poverty levels and the Ayushman Bharat Scheme should be tested at private laboratories free of cost.
Dr KK Aggarwal, president of Confederation of Asiatic Medical Societies who is issuing daily research oriented bulletins on corona, feels, “Public relations in healthcare needs a resurrection in the sense that the five Ws and H of communications i.e. who, when, what, why, where and how should be translated straight forward in every action so that no patient is left uncared.”
The key to healthcare public relations in India is a uniform code of unwritten ethics which include a two way communication between medical practitioners and patients. The overall understanding of a need to deliver the right treatment is many times either misunderstood or overdone. In this aspect, a clear demarcation of activities for healthcare is very essential.
The common sense application states the majority of ill health persons are unaware of medical procedures and basic ways of maintaining good health. To arouse health consciousness among patients special methods should be adapted, feels Dr Satendra Katoch, Additional Medical Director, Gangaram Hospitals, New Delhi.
Italy gave a hero’s farewell to the delegation of 47 doctors from Cuba who visited the country and helped to cure corona in a big way. In Cuba, Vietnam and Cambodia healthcare is available at minimal cost to every person. It is at times even free. Barak Obama regretted that he could not make healthcare free for Americans. In India, the tragedy is even worse.
When eminent media personality Soma D’Beavoir, who is also a specialist in healthcare, took up the case of the deprived Rohingya community in New Delhi in the dead of winter earlier this year and spoke for them in a commanding voice, she transcended barriers of communications created by sick human mentality.
But the efforts of Sangita Reddy, health icon and president of FICCI, are commendable. She speaks vociferously for the private healthcare sector in India but does not lag in blaming those who are the black sheep in this arena. She boldly condemns any efforts to make healthcare a distant vision for any individual and carries on undauntedly her crusade for best healthcare like a white rose.

(The author is a Kolkata-based senior journalist)

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