Private Medical Services – An Urgent  Need for an Ombudsperson

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Dear Hon. Minister Jagutpal

You made a statement that medicine should be “patient-centric”.  Unfortunately the reality on the ground is more doctor- clinic- or money-centric.

This article does not target any particular doctor or hospital / clinic. It is prompted by personal experience over many years, as well as the horrid episodes involving employees, family and friends who have been treated with a total lack of empathy, and little or no care or compassion.

Some examples:

I survived a case of medical negligence or incompetence in 2003, which nearly cost me my life.  It was common knowledge amongst doctors at the time.  I was told that no doctor would testify against another doctor. I understand that, but it means we can forget the Medical Council as a regulator of medical malpractice.
A relative spent nearly 8 hours in a wheelchair in a reception area, waiting for a room in a private clinic. None of the staff offered a cup of water. She was wheeled to the toilet by another person sitting close by.  After being operated on, and released by her doctor a few days later, she waited 6 hours before being allowed home. After 4 hours, she was in deep pain, but was denied a painkiller because her file was “closed” at the pharmacy. The staff had also forgotten to get the Tramadol prescription from her doctor.
Of course, the two episodes she endured are two sides of the same coin. If a hospital takes hours releasing outgoing patients, no wonder patients waiting to be admitted have to wait hours for a room.

And these delays are not related to medical insurance approval.  Another close friend paid UP-FRONT a sum much higher than the final bill, and waited over 4 hours before being allowed home after a brain operation.

A close relative had one knee treated in Paris before Covid. When she needed the other knee operated on, a doctor here told her, in a fit of pique, “Go to Paris, Madame!”. This was right in the middle of the Covid-induced flight suspensions!   Truly nasty and unprofessional!  Refusal to treat a patient has to be contrary to the most elementary medical ethics.  The doctor is still allowed to practice in the same clinic who told my friend that they effectively had no control over doctors.

It is common knowledge that France can be much cheaper than Mauritius because there exists a formal tariff structure.  Why not prescribe one here?

The operation for my lumbar stenosis involving fusion of four vertebrae, with TWO neuro-surgeons in attendance for six hours, plus anesthetist, and 10 days at the Kremlin-Bicêtre in Paris, cost me a total of €20,000 in 2019, around Rs 800,000 at the time.  Whilst no two cases are identical, I was told of a similar case here where the total cost was over Rs 1.4M.

My driver was told 12 years ago he needed a knee operation.  His knee is still fine. A lorry helper working for my distribution company earning Rs 28,000 monthly on average was told he needed an operation, for which the doctor’s fees alone would be Rs 250,000. He couldn’t afford it, obviously.  Every day for a week, the secretary called to ask when he was coming in for the operation.  Hard selling has reached the medical profession.

Cases of patients being ripped off by unscrupulous doctors are legend.

These are just a selection of the horror stories people endure daily.  Even whilst paying good money.

There is NO RECOURSE right now against hospitals or practitioners who treat the most vulnerable people in such a shoddy manner.

I am sure there are responsible doctors abiding by the strictest of ethics.  I get treated by some excellent chaps. Just as there are private hospitals which offer good service characterized by care and compassion. But there are bad eggs which can only be rooted out by a proper regulatory authority with teeth.  Competition will also help, and it is comforting to note that new licenses are being delivered for new clinics to open, but there has to be adequate redress when patients are shabbily treated.

The ball is in your court, Dr. Jagutpal.


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