A stress-free mind and a disease-free body are the birth rights of every human being. To that effect, every government spends a colossal sum of the budget in providing free health care.
In Mauritius last year, the health budget was just over Rs 10 billion in the public sector and a phenomenal sum of over Rs 8 billion in the private sector. Here, I wish to draw the attention of the readers that 75% of the population have treatment in government medical institutions as compared to 25% in the private sector.
It is unfortunate but true that the provision of health care has become a very lucrative business. The Mauritian Public is fortunate to have access to free care as compared to many countries where there is very little provision for it due to financial shortage.
Private practice by specialists and consultants of the ministry of health exists since many decades. And recently, the Ministry of Health is attempting to reorganize private medical practice by doctors working in government institutions. This is a herculean task for various reasons but primarily because of vested interests among the medical profession itself.
Private practice by medical specialists and consultants is a worldwide phenomenon. However, problems arise from an ethical point of view when a patient with his own free will decides to have treatment both in a government medical institution and in the private sector with the same medical specialist. In Mauritius, we are fortunate to have enough specialists in all the different specialities, except in General Anaesthesia and Neurosurgery. There is a strong lobby to prevent newly-appointed specialists in the public sector the privilege of private medical practice. This is a difficult issue as I personally believe that once a privilege has been given to a group of doctors this should apply to one and all.
In a utopian society, it would be fairer to have two distinct healthcares, one in the public sector and the other in the private sector. This will avoid conflict of interest as it is at present.
Let me conclude on an optimistic note: life is not only sacred but it is a miracle. Each individual on Planet Earth will leave this world with time. Remember, nothing dies. All things change. This is the fundamental truth. As long as society considers wealth and material accumulation as a sign of success, there will always be two distinct approaches in the provision of private medical practice. Doctors are given the privilege to help their fellow citizens suffering from various medical ailments. This should be done without thinking of financial remuneration in the first instance – private medical practice will always be present as it brings great dividends in this lucrative business of healthcare. Members of the medical profession should be reminded to provide optimum care for the welfare of patients without ever considering financial rewards!! Readers should also be aware that specialists who do not opt for private medical practice are being given an award on a monthly basis as recommended by the Pay Research Bureau.