Thursday, May 17, 2007

Polio vaccination, or delicious cod?

While I love to brag about how much I save buying my prescription meds in India ($5 for a month's supply! Which used to cost me $500 a month in the U.S.! And I'm not dead yet!), the health-care system is far from perfect. Actually, on the fucked-up-edness spectrum, it's probably closer to "Now totally taking on the eradication of cholera, which you may remember from the Apple IIE classic, The Oregon Trail."

I was reminded of this when I opened my copy of Hindustan Times and encountered a story about how a the parents of a patient at a hospital in Kerala gave the doctor their morning catch (five kilograms of fresh pearl spot fish) -- which the harried pediatrician stacked inside a freezer in the pediatric operation ward of Kottayam Medical College. (A pharmacist discovered the fish when he restocked the freezer.)

It's not just gross negligence in hospitals; it's a lack of basic hygiene facilities for a vast proportion of the country, water shortages, inappropriate drug delivery systems, insufficient oversight to address health threats encountered by manual laborers, and grinding poverty that makes it necessary to, for example, sell one's kidney to get out of debt.

As much as people are talking about medical tourism, it seems -- as with so many other things here -- that adequate care is reserved only for the elite. I'd gladly pay more for my pills if that could, in some alterna-perfect world, help India's less privileged afford essentials like protection from mosquito-borne illnesses.


Harmeet said...


In India your wish does not help....i mean even if you will pay more for your medicenes which would mean more benifit to the govt the real benifit to the poor will never reach (or will reach after ages)....but i like the way you think....i actually just discovered your blog today and kind of liked it....there are lot of things which we tend to ignore (as Indians) because we think thats normal or not important for us ...and also from the vast sea of information (web and newsapers) you pick out some selective stuff (which is good) and lot of things which i never came across....but i think you are leaving India ??! Is it temp or permanent??..aahhh i think i can write a lot more...but maybe for later...


Zoey said...

Hi Harmeet!

Yeah, I know my wish is pretty insufficient; even if I did pay more, there's no effective channel to ensure that the money would go to the right place, and the thought itself introduces a sea of questions about differential pricing and discrimination, etc. I suppose the best thing would to find some NGO that is supplying drugs to rural areas, etc., and donate, but it's difficult to tell which NGOs are effectively serving their constituencies and so on.

Glad you enjoy the blog! I am leaving India in about a month and a half; my company wants me in the U.S. However, since I'll be in New York -- which has a large South Asian community -- I expect I'll be blogging on similar issues, albeit from a different perspective (how NRIs balance identities as American and Indian, etc.). And, since my husband is Indian and we want to stay close with his family, I expect we'll be back in the subconty a few times a year. So all is not lost!