Our firsthand experience is as shocking to us as it will be to you.
There are always a few people who know how to turn a situation in their favour. This is exactly what is happening in many government hospitals. While ventilator support in private hospitals is out of reach for many given their exorbitant costs, government hospitals in the city are battling a severe shortage of the life support systems.
We first encountered these 'breath givers' a few months back when we had a patient who was in an urgent need of ventilator, but due to non-availability we put him on Ambu bag which is a manually operated ventilator. In Ambu bag support, relatives of the patient have to continuously keep pumping the bag for 15-16 times per minute, so that the respiratory system of the patient runs and he remains stabilised till he gets mechanical ventilator support.
There were two of his relatives whom we taught how to press the bag and told them to continue till a ventilator is arranged but one never know how much time it is going to take, may be hours or even some days.
It was around 1am in the night that we saw a guy doing it on the patient. We remembered seeing the same person doing this yesterday on some other patient. Out of some doubt we asked him are you related to this patient and the answer was a stammer. We called the relatives and this is how the story unfolds...
It is much obvious that there is a limit for anyone to keep pressing ambu bag for hours. You need to frequently change among yourselves to do this and in this critical condition there are people who find a way to make some money. They know very well that it’s very difficult to press the bag whole night and the attendants will be more than happy if someone can do this thing for them. They will offer to do this for some amount and bargaining is always an option. They work in a group of three or four and thus have to work for around two hours each. In this case they charged them Rs 500 for 6hours. We couldn’t believe what we just heard and saw.
We didn’t know what to say to these guys? Should we ask them to move out or should we allow them to continue ? If we ask them to move out, the patient relatives say that provide them a ventilator(which is not available) and if we allow them to continue then probably it’s very difficult to explain how suffocated we felt. This is how the wrath of the incompetent and strained system fall upon the healthcare professionals, specially the doctors who become helpless in such situations.
On our part we didn't have a word to say, as patients in need of critical care are facing a tough time and there is very less that we can do about it. Only thing we are concerned about is to save the life of a person due to which such money-makers become a part of this endeavor.
In connection with a recent news in Times of India regarding the shortage of ventilators. Doctors, part of ethical movement on Detcare request the government frequently to increase and maintain the facilities that is being available at the government institutuions, so as to avoid this torture to the patients.
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