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President drives home treatment truths

President Pranab Mukherjee and chief minister Mamata Banerjee at the inauguration of the indoor unit of the Indian Institute of Liver and Digestive Sciences on Thursday. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

May 18: A doctor cannot guarantee a patient's survival, President Pranab Mukherjee said today while coming down on the growing trend of ransacking hospitals after the death of patients.

The President also pointed out that treatment has a burden of cost that patients and their families have to bear as India was yet to reach a stage where the government could foot the bill.

"The relatives and friends of patients, too, have a responsibility. It is no good that every time there is an allegation of doctor's negligence leading to a death, patients' relatives would go and beat up the doctor and ransack the hospital," Mukherjee said while delivering a speech at the inauguration of the indoor unit of the Indian Institute of Liver and Digestive Sciences in Sonarpur.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee attended the event, too.

"Medical science has progressed a lot but no one can guarantee that a life can be saved... (a doctor) can use the knowledge, experience and efficiency in treating a patient and can give the right medicines but can't guarantee that a patient will be resuscitated," the President added.

Mukherjee's comments followed the enactment of the West Bengal Clinical Establishment (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Act, which many doctors are opposed to fearing harassment based on unsubstantiated charges.

The act, which has been dubbed as discriminatory as government hospitals have been kept outside its purview, came into force in March following a mob fury at Calcutta Medical Research Institute triggered by the death of a patient. Hospital employees were attacked and the building was ransacked in the presence of cops.

The government has set up the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission under the act to look into complaints of medical negligence and over-billing against private hospitals.

At a meeting with representatives of all private hospitals in the city, the chief minister had spoken about "exorbitant" rates at some of the establishments.

The President lauded Mamata's efforts to make health-care more affordable to the people but pointed out: "There is a cost of treatment and that has to be borne. It would have been good if the government bore the cost of treatment but since we are not a rich country, the patient's family has to bear the cost of treatment."

The President had a word of advice for doctors, too: "Along with treatment, doctors also need to give a human touch. Patients expect sympathetic behaviour from doctors."

The chief minister in her speech said she didn't believe that all private hospitals charged astronomical amount.

The Indian Institute of Liver and Digestive Sciences was unveiled in February but was only running outpatient services. Now, the 100-bed hospital is ready to admit patients.


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