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Magic touch of a Kerala doctor: Why it's preferable to be treated in govt hospital

By Rosamma Thomas* 
On the morning of May 23, 2022, this writer slipped and fell on a slimy moss-covered private road in Pala town, Kottayam district, Kerala. One look at the ankle of the right leg was enough to show that it needed medical intervention – the ankle was out of shape, and the bones had got out of whack.
I was bundled into an autorickshaw – there was already an elderly lady in the auto, but the driver understood the urgency of the situation and requested his passenger to accommodate a slight delay in reaching her destination. The kind old lady obliged us, and an aunt accompanied me to the General Hospital, Pala.
There, the doctor at the orthopedic department refused to take questions on the names of affected bones, shut me up and told me I would have to bear some pain – he was manually going to adjust the joint. One painful pull, and then a push; and then a quick plaster of the leg, till below the knee.
I was admitted to the hospital for tests that needed to be done ahead of surgery. When the doctor arrived on his rounds, he said that surgery would be necessary. After seeing the x-ray taken post-plaster, though, he admitted to being confused.
The bones had fallen back in place quite neatly, and although there was fracture that needed to heal, it appeared like that manual tug and push had served to place the bones back in their normal position – no surgery was needed.
I know for sure that had I rushed to a private hospital, I would have been put through surgery. I know for a fact that in a private hospital, the doctor would not have had as much experience from having seen as many patients – the skill doctors develop to tug and push and offer in treatment such simple remedies comes from repeatedly practicing such skills.
I was fortunate that the doctor I met was skilled; that he was flexible enough to see that his earlier opinion might need revision when new evidence presented itself. That he was professional and courteous, and treated all his patients alike, no matter what their background.
Several of my companions in the female ward were part of MGNREGA scheme. Could special provisions be made for such patients?
General Hospital Pala is fortunate to have this doctor on its staff. There are, though, other problems that the hospital could solve, with some effort – the old and new buildings both need to be accessed by patients, who might be admitted in the new building but need to visit the old for tests.
For one with a broken foot, this distance is rather too vast, and there are no local transport facilities easily available. Three-wheel rickshaw drivers could perhaps be hired to do just this short distance, at regular monthly salaries, and no reliance on fossil fuels?
There are small fees for tests – the ECG, for instance, costs Rs 40. The small bottle in which one collects the urine sample costs Rs 30. These fees are rather too steep for many of the patients admitted, who give up daily wages to get themselves treated.
Several of my companions in the female ward where I was admitted were part of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Could special provisions be made for such patients? But this is perhaps not a task for the government or this particular hospital, but for the citizens of Pala.
*Freelance journalist


Zulaikha Rafiq said…
You bring up excellent points to ponder about the public health system. Glad you had such a positive experience. Truly impressed by the doctors and other people who helped you.
Unknown said…
Definitely Govt Hospital doctors are much more equipped to handle cases by virtue of the massive experience gathered over the years treating patients of all classes .


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