Friday, June 5, 2020

Dear Citizen, You Are on Your Own Now

A shopkeeper arranges face masks at his shop in Jabalpur, June 2, 2020. Photo: PTI

By Sidharth Bhatia

There are any number of anecdotes and stories on social media about how it has been almost impossible to get hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. Desperate relatives run from pillar to post, use every ‘contact’ they can reach to use some influence, and even post on social media, tagging the chief minister and the prime minister, but to no avail. Often these patients die, and the others from the family then have to get tested, which is again a rigmarole.

And if someone in your family is a heart patient or needs regular dialysis or has a sudden fall, then only divine intervention can help. Leave alone the much-maligned – and neglected and underfunded – public health system, which the middle-class otherwise studiously avoids, even our beautifully appointed and expensive private hospitals will have no time for you. If you do manage to get medical attention, prepare to pay a hefty bill. Don’t bank on your insurance company to pay up though, it will find enough loopholes to get out of that commitment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the deep systemic faults in the country which we knew about. At the same time, it has also shown that when it comes to the things that really matter, such as health, no one is insulated and everyone is equally vulnerable to these structural weaknesses. The better off may be more comfortable than slum dwellers, but they are not necessarily safer. This is something that the middle and upper middle-classes had never bargained for, and now they are shocked by this realization.  Read more >>