Feb. 21: Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma today told The Telegraph that the state government had taken serious cognisance of instances of patients being duped by middlemen or harassed by any medical staff for money at the GMCH.
“If we get any complaint against any medical staff of government hospitals demanding money from patients in lieu of treatment, we will take tough action against him or her and in extreme cases even file FIRs. If we take cognisance of any complaint, the middlemen too will come under scrutiny,” Sarma said.
Cases of patients being harassed by middlemen at the GMCH are not uncommon. Early this month, a doctor of the GMCH was reportedly caught demanding money from two patients to conduct a surgery. The state health department has suspended him.
A few days later, two women were caught while they were trying to dupe patients by demanding money on the pretext of helping them to get early treatment. The hospital authorities handed them over to police.
At present, homeguards present at the entry, exit and other specific points on the hospital campus keep an eye on movements of people arriving at the hospital. But the number of homeguards on duty here are definitely inadequate to monitor the huge flow of patients here.
“Earlier, the hospital used to have private security guards, but later they were replaced with armed homeguards to maintain security in the hospital area as well as monitor the movements of the people. Though they do their duty well, more guards are required to monitor the huge crowd,” said a source.
These middlemen mostly look for their preys in the waiting area of the emergency block where registration is done as the area witnesses huge rush everyday. They approach patients with the false promise of providing them medical facilities quickly in exchange for a few bucks. Patients who have been waiting for their turn also give in. Instead of taking them to the hospital’s diagnostic area and central pharmacy, they take these patients to private laboratories and pharmacies located outside the campus.
The hospital has closed-circuit television cameras installed at designated points. But more need to be installed, especially in the registration area to keep an eye on visitors.
“We have a round-the-clock central pharmacy as well as another pharmacy in the hospital where free medicines are available. Diagnostic facilities are also provided at a subsidised rate to patients. These are also made free for patients living below poverty line,” deputy superintendent of the GMCH, K.K. Saikia, said.
“These middlemen usually target ignorant patients who may have arrived here for the first time and offer to help them in exchange for a few rupees. They take patients to private diagnostic centres, where they end up spending a lot of money,” Saikia said.
The hospital administration has installed signboards that guide visitors to various parts of the hospital, but most people ignore these. While many patients who cannot read have to ask for guidance, even people do not bother to read them and are seen asking people for directions. The middlemen are always on the lookout for such opportunities.