Monday, June 23, 2003

Last minute bidding for diagnostic facilities

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, June 23: After ailines, it's the turn of the medical sector in the State to offer online and last minute bidding for diagnostic tests and surgery. Come July 1 and as many as 50 common surgeries will be sold for just Re 1.
Doctor Munnabhai Technologies, which recently launched bidding for diagnostic tests, has now opened common surgeries for as low as Re 1 at corporate hospitals. "Surgery at Re 1" offer includes surgeon's fee, anaesthetist's fee, nursing charges, operation theatre charges and general ward accommodation for specified number of days.
All that the patient has to do is to pay the cost of medicines and disposables. Patients are free to purchase these items from the hospital or bring them from outside on their own. The scheme is valid up to August 30. And from September 1, surgeries will be sold through bidding on internet, mobile phone sms or in person.
Doctors, however, are sceptical of the scheme and doubt the quality of the service provided to patients. "Bidding for airlines is OK. It is unethical to bid on one's health. Unless surgeons and hospitals offer heavy discounts or take up charity, it's not possible to offer surgery at Re 1", argues eminent plastic surgeon Dr N Hemant Kumar.
General surgeon Dr B Ramesh Rao welcomes the idea of highly subsidised charges for common surgeries but doubts the viability of the project since the fee hospitals pay to surgeons and anaesthetists is fairly good. He also does not agree with the concept of opening the health sector for open auction. Dr Ramesh feels that there may be some hidden charges as otherwise it may not be possible for hospitals to conduct surgeries at such an unbelievable price.
"This is a special offer where almost 50 kinds of surgeries are sold everyday without any frills, one of each kind, on a first come first served basis to non-emergency patients", says Dr Shantan Reddy, director of Doctor Munnabhai 24x7. Patients can rest assured as the surgeon being nominated will be an experienced one. The charges for the surgeon are included in the Re 1 package as the surgeon is employed by the hospital.
Noted surgeon Dr Viswas Naik does not agree with Dr Shantan Reddy. Says he, "Bidding for diagnostic tests is welcome since machines are involved. You can put hundreds of patients under machines for tests. But in case of surgeries, human life is involved. It is unethical to introduce bidding for surgeries".
"We provide services during off-peak hours/period and utilise the perishable services to generate additional revenues. Like airlines, hospitals too have perishable services like equipment time, hospital rooms, doctors' time and operation theatre time. If not used by the end of the day, they are wasted", clarifies Dr Shantan Reddy.