India has never been a country for the faint-hearted. With all the convoluted rules and regulations and the maze of the administrative procedures, it takes a miracle to lead a life away from the influence of the Government. After all, the omnipresent but spectacularly ineffective Government specializes in making life difficult as much as possible for the law-abiding citizens.
One would expect that the Government might have mended its ways during a health pandemic, that the situation might have improved, that the Government would start taking care of its citizens (unlike the joke called PM-JAY). If not at the time of the emergency, when, where and how else would the Government stand up for the citizens? A basic expectation, by any standards, I suppose.
God forbid if you develop any symptoms of the COVID-19 in India. I did and I realized the nightmare of the situation. Our family doctor is 65 years +. For obvious reasons, he has shut down his practice. Not that his being there would have made any material difference to the situation. It would have still been a nightmare.
I do not know any person of influence, I do not know any person who can make “the phone call”, I do not know any person who can work the levers of the Government. I also have the ignominy of not having enough money to pay the bills of the corporate hospitals. All these constraints and COVID-19 symptoms made me wonder how human existence is even possible in India unless one has power or money or network.
A person is ill with symptoms. So, a person is entitled to an immediate test. Is it right or wrong? An outright wrong in India. I realized that a COVID-19 test is not possible without a prescription. With our family doctor shutting shop, I do not know any doctor. PHC would not give me an entry and a private diagnostics laboratory would not give me an appointment. What do I do?
The PHC would not tell me whether I would be administered an RT-PCR or a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT). I have read that RAT has 50% efficacy, in which case it is better to flip a coin rather than taking a test. Both, PHC and I, mutually rejected each other. I would not want to undergo a RAT and they would not want a nosy patient without a prescription.
This set me thinking. What was the utility of a COVID-19 test? If it turns out to be positive, what was I supposed to be doing? What were the options for me? Were any of these options worthwhile to take the test?
Hospitals – Government/Private
I have read that basis the symptoms a home quarantine/institutional quarantine/hospitalization are suggested. Now, who suggests this? Of course, a doctor. An easy answer. Where to find the doctor in the Indian scenario? It is not an easy answer.
The Government doctors are elusive. Waiting for your turn in a Government hospital takes an eternity. With the teeming surroundings, one might get coronavirus or any other infection even if s/he did not have it to start with. The staff lacks empathy, the hospital lacks working infrastructure, the doctors lack the time. Just that the death comes for free, similar to the treatment. In such a scenario, who would want to get admitted to a Government hospital?
Corporate doctors are available. Seemingly, they have only one prescription – get admitted to their hospital. The hospitals give admission basis the cash deposit of Rs. 3-4 lacs and a fresh deposit on alternate days. There is no transparency about the treatment provided, but the inflated bills are provided nonetheless. The death comes at a price, similar to the treatment. In such a scenario, who would want to get admitted to a private/corporate hospital?
Institutional quarantine, if you do get some doctor to prescribe that option, is also expensive. I have never paid the bills for a 5-Star hotel and have no intention or the capacity of doing so in the name of treatment.
Which place am I left with for getting medical treatment in this scenario?. I have old parents and young children; I better save my money for them, rather than leaving my family indebted for life.
The devil and the deep sea that is India gave me the conviction to refuse to get tested for COVID-19.
Whose fault is it to refuse to get tested for COVID-19?
I know that I will be termed irresponsible to refuse to get tested for COVID-19. I will be called selfish for considering my self-interest and putting others at risk (which I have not done, though). However, whose fault is it if I have self-decided to home quarantine myself?
As an ordinary citizen, I too deserve the care and the attention of the State, similar to what the political leaders’ reserve for their selves. The Government considers me a liability and makes me run pillar to post to get myself just tested, even when I am ill. If I am declared infected with COVID-19, either I am left to rot and die in Government hospitals or left to be fleeced and die in Private hospitals. What steps has Government taken either way to alleviate the pain and the condition?
If the Government abandons its fundamental duty to keep its citizens healthy, what wrong have I done to refuse to get tested for COVID-19? Given the constraints I have, I feel that I have taken a rational decision in the best interests of my family and self – to conserve the energy and finances. I refuse to be a foot-note in the Government’s fudged data of dead and recovered COVID-19 patients.
I know that if more people start behaving like me, there will be anarchy, there will be no trust in the Government. For that matter, why would I not call the current situation itself as anarchy? Is it not? Who trusts the Government for anything? Do you?
PS: I underwent home quarantine. It saved me a lot of trouble, heart-burn and money. I salute the people who dare to get tested even as on date in India. They read/hear/see the horror stories of people in Government/Private hospitals, the Government’s apathy, yet …