Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ailing apathy: A diagnosis of Meghalaya’s medical malaise


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Shillong, the jewel in Meghalaya’s crown, is a city steeped in history and blessed with natural beauty. Yet, beneath this picturesque facade lies a festering wound – the state of its healthcare system. This isn’t a mere critique; it’s a desperate plea for a course correction, a call to awaken the slumbering conscience of the medical fraternity.
As a lifelong resident of Shillong, I, like countless others, have borne witness to a medical landscape marred by a chilling apathy. Doctors, both in private and government institutions, seem to have forgotten the sacred oath they took. Gone is the empathy, replaced instead by a cold indifference that leaves patients feeling like mere commodities on a conveyor belt.
Reaching a doctor, a seemingly basic necessity, transforms into a herculean task. Phone calls go unanswered, messages languish in the abyss of inboxes. This isn’t a minor inconvenience; it’s a symptom of a deeper malaise – a lack of commitment to the very core of the profession – patient care.
Diagnoses, often the cornerstone of treatment, become a gamble. Stories abound of misdiagnoses, leaving patients bewildered and their health hanging in the balance. The trust, the bedrock of the doctor-patient relationship, crumbles under the weight of such failings.
One shudders to imagine the justification for this behaviour. Is it an inflated sense of self-importance, a misplaced belief in being some unapproachable “hotshot”? The irony is stark. Doctors elsewhere, even the most renowned, readily lend an ear, understanding that a timely response can be the difference between life and death. This isn’t about professional hierarchy; it’s about the fundamental tenets of the medical profession. It’s about remembering the Hippocratic Oath, the pledge to “first, do no harm.” It’s about understanding that a patient’s life is not a statistic, but a story waiting to be written, a story the doctor has a profound role in shaping.
The erosion of empathy isn’t limited to consultations. Hospital corridors echo with tales of neglect and dismissive attitudes. The human touch, the cornerstone of healing, seems to have been replaced by a sterile, bureaucratic approach.
The consequence of this apathy is a healthcare system in a state of disarray. Patients, already burdened by illness, are left feeling helpless and hopeless. The trust they place in the medical profession is shattered, replaced by a gnawing sense of disillusionment.
This isn’t just about individual experiences; it’s about a systemic failure. Perhaps it’s a shortage of qualified personnel, overworked and under-resourced. Maybe it’s a training system that prioritizes technical expertise over bedside manners. Whatever the root cause, the impact is undeniable – a healthcare system failing its very purpose.
The path to recovery requires a multi-pronged approach. Addressing the infrastructural deficiencies, ensuring adequate staffing with qualified professionals, and implementing training programs that emphasize the importance of communication and empathy are crucial first steps.
But beyond these, a fundamental shift in mindset is imperative. Doctors need to rediscover the essence of their calling – the privilege of serving humanity at its most vulnerable. The arrogance needs to be replaced by humility, the dismissiveness by genuine concern.
This isn’t a blame game; it’s a call to action. To the medical fraternity of Meghalaya, let this be a stark reminder of the Hippocratic Oath. Let compassion be your guiding light, for it is not just lives you hold in your hands, but the very future of Meghalaya’s healthcare system.
The people of Meghalaya deserve better. They deserve a healthcare system that prioritizes their well-being, a system where doctors are not aloof figures, but partners in their journey towards healing. It’s time to rewrite the narrative, to transform the ailing apathy into a beacon of empathy and care.
Yours etc.,
Alex Kurbah
Shillong – 19

Muddy water, shame on Shillong Municipality
and PHED
With each downpour, the water supplied by the Shillong Municipality and the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) in Shillong town becomes alarmingly muddy. This water is so contaminated that it is “unfit” not only for drinking but also for basic household tasks like washing clothes and utensils. Can we wash our shirts and tops, or rinse our shampooed hair, in such murky water? Absolutely not!
Many households have reported damage to their water filters, including Aqua Guard units. Sadly, they don’t speak out. The plight of the economically disadvantaged is even worse, they have no choice but to use cloth to filter the cloudy water. Moreover, these individuals cannot afford the additional cost of boiling water for further purification.
It seems the Municipality and PHED have completely brushed aside last year’s shocking reports, which confirmed the presence of various toxic substances and bacteria in Shillong’s water supply—a fact brought to light by the FKJGP and consistent uproar in the media. Even non-muddy water is full of harmful bacteria. Despite this outrageous disclosure, the responsible departments appear to have done nothing. Isn’t that shameful?
A vice principal from one of the town’s colleges remarked, ‘The repeated supply of untreated and muddy water is not merely an oversight—it is a total violation of residents’ fundamental rights. In the 21st century, access to clean, potable water should be a non-negotiable standard, not a privilege. The situation in Shillong is deeply shameful.’ Another resident from the town, who is nearing the completion of an MBBS exam in Bangalore, burst out in frustration, “Please go and check how hotels in the town are preparing their tea, or puri-sabji, singara that we consume. They are cooking with the same muddy water because they literally lack proper filtration systems. Who is to blame if not the Municipality and PHED?’
Yes, this raises the question: Why has public uproar fallen on the deaf ears of the concerned department? It seems their sense of responsibility and prudence has been literally “washed away” with the deluge of the downpours.
Anyway, until the authorities ensure clean, potable water in Shillong, it is wise on our part to advise against inviting tourists eager to experience the rainfall in Sohra. We must ensure that our visiting tourists should not take away a negative impression of the Abode of Clouds.
Yours etc.,
Salil Gewali,

Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP)
The Government of India had approved the “Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP) covering 2967 villages in 46 border blocks of 19 districts in 4 States and 1 Union Territory. 662 villages have been identified for coverage on priority basis i.e. 455 in Arunachal Pradesh, 75 in Himachal Pradesh, 35 in Ladakh, 46 in Sikkim and 51 in Uttarakhand. The main aim of this programme is to develop villages to on these points – (a) Economic Growth – Livelihood generation (b) Road Connectivity (c) Housing & Village Infrastructure (d) Energy including renewable energy through Solar and Wind power (e) Television & Telecom Connectivity including setting up of IT- enabled Common Service Centres in the village (f) Regeneration of ecosystem (g) Promotion of tourism & culture (h) Financial inclusion (i) Skill development & entrepreneurship (j) Development of co-operative societies for managing livelihood opportunities including agriculture/horticulture, cultivation of medicinal plants/herbs etc.
Are we in Meghalaya missing this bus of development, which can take us to the right place, when our poor State which shares a 443 km long international border with Bangladesh is left out? Perhaps our Government did not try to ask for inclusion of the border villages in our state when this programme was launched, by the Prime Minister. Or we did not even try hard, in Parliament when an unstarred question no. 3251 was placed and answered on March 29, 2023, by the Minister of State in Ministry of Home Affairs. It will take only a few minutes to ask but we are wasting our time for weeks by commenting/asking “what this lone, desolate, forlorn, lonely, lonesome and solitary MP will or can do in Parliament?”
Yours etc.,
D Pakyntein,
Via email


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