Ostrich Syndrome!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Certificate of Good Standing from the MCI- Who Needs it?

For any Indian doctor applying for a course or even employment outside the country, it is usually essential to procure a “Certificate of Good Standing” from the Medical Council of India (MCI). I have gone through this arduous task on a couple of occasions. Correctly enough the validity of this certificate is for a year and for re-certification you have to again go through the same procedure. That is to say the Council keeps a check on your character as a doctor on an annual basis.
A couple of weeks back, Dr. Ketan Desai, the President of MCI was nabbed by the CBI on charges of taking a bribe of Rupees 2 crores in lieu of recognizing a Medical College from Punjab. How ironic could that be! President of the Council which issues Certificates of Good Standing to thousands of doctors has a dubious character himself. No wonder, the Certificate of Good Standing of the MCI is not signed by its President. This task is left with the Registrar of the Council.
It is funny (and scary) how often our government system and its characters are an oxymoron to their own value system. How often we are betrayed by those in whom we dispose our faith and belief. Judges, civil servants, politicians, journalists, doctors. You name it and every single profession has betrayed the common Indian in the country’s short history of sixty three years. It makes me think. Are we heading in the right direction or have we lost the plot already?
We all remember the first few lines of “tryst with destiny” speech of Jawaharlal Nehru on that eventful midnight but we rather prefer to forget the concluding part of his speech. He had said, “We have hard work ahead. There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full, till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be”. Surely destiny didn’t mean this for the people of India to be! Against the back drop of Nehru’s “tryst with destiny”, the destiny of common Indians is written not by themselves but by thugs who are at the helm of affairs.
Loss of faith of the common man in government machinery is an open secret. People like Dr. Desai only reaffirm this loss. It is this breach of faith which throws a life-line to the ever expanding private sector. Day in and day out, new hospitals and private medical schools pock mark the Indian landscape. Rules are twisted. Illegal permissions granted. The party goes on. The loot goes unabated. I am not arguing that the Private health sector should not exist. Unarguably the government health sector should be supplemented but not substituted by a robust private sector. In fact some of the best brains in Medical sciences in our country are the product of a vibrant private health sector.
Unfortunately, the problem is not the private sector. What can we accept from Institutions which are formed and run with an open intent to earn money? Dr. Ketan Desai was not from the private set up. It is us, people working in the public sector who are guilty of betraying our clientele again and again. It is us who defy rules. It is us who get lured to money. It is us who are an easy prey to temptations of wealth, power and mammon.
The acceptance of “gifts” from pharmaceutical companies is a common occurrence in thousands of government hospitals across the country. How conveniently a “bribe” can be changed into a “gift” is something on which we all need to ponder. Gifts are given to someone you love, not to doctors meant to treat patients! Pharmaceutical companies set out big sums in their budgets to lure doctors into writing their drugs and implants. It is ironic that the corridor of most government hospitals across India are filled with sick and dying patients as well as a good number of neatly dressed medical representatives with well polished shoes. In fact I could see the class difference here too, bigger the company, more suave the representative!
The most dangerous part of the story is that with exponential (and selective) economic growth, there has been an intrusion of foreign companies on the Indian scene. Most CME programs, medical conferences and surgical workshops are now sponsored (read hijacked) by these profit making machines. The promotion of implants and drugs in the name of scientific research in a country with no clear guidelines and checks is a matter of urgent concern. The rampant use of implants actually meant for the western population is riddled with intrinsic complications. But who cares? The flow of money washes away the ethical concerns.
The corruption in the Indian medical fraternity is not limited to the MCI or Dr. Ketan Desai. The rot goes deep. He just headed the juggernaut which steam rolls over human life and suffering in the pretext of alleviating it. The disintegration of ethical values is near complete. Entice of wealth has taken its toll. The question is whether we can break out of this free fall or are we ready to land with our faces flat on the ground. The task is cut out for the MCI. There is an urgent need to set the house in order. The need of an honest and transparent system at the MCI cannot be over emphasised. It’s my belief that India cannot cleanse itself of people like Dr. Desai. They will keep coming back like seasonal pests. But we can surely have a system to identify and neutralise them. If checks and balances are in place the likes of Dr. Desai can be kept at bay. In all honesty, the Medical Council of India needs a Certificate of Good Standing for itself more than anyone else.