Sunday, March 22, 2009

Adventures in Healthcare Here in India

In the past 60 days, both Will and I have had runins with the medical industry here, me with hepatitis and Will in an altercation with a faulty window, necessitating around 25 stitches.

Overall, I have to say that the quality of care is quite good. Cleanliness may not be a primary concern, but the word "care" really is there. With my hepatitis, my first visit with the doctor was direct and forthcoming.

"Oh, my. You should be in hospital. You are really yellow."

I didn't want to go into a hospital, single parent, teenage child, fear of hospitals, all that. My doctor and I discussed my options and she agreed to let me come in daily for a six-hour multivitamin drip, check my blood levels and have a consult with her or a specialist as needed. Each day I would leave my house and and take a bike rickshaw ro the Sitaram Bhartia Clinic at Galleria Mall and would arrive at 9 AM. I would have three nurses fuss over me, watch my bottles of dextrose and multivitamins, check the speed of the drip, and chat. They would clean me up and rebandage my hand every afternoon and send me on my way. I got progressively better. The entire bill of care (so far) is around 15,000 rupees or about USD $300, including all my blood tests, and ultrasound, etc.

My son, on the other hand, was hanging with his friends on Holi, filling water balloons in one of the security guard restrooms on the gorund floor of our apartment complex. He was leaning against a glass window when it broke, shattering the glass and causing a spike to dig deeply into his foream. Apparently there was bllod everywhere, and as teens do everywhere, instead of telling me, they took Will to the hospital. Three hours later, I get a call, because the hospital wants money. Will's friends were great, by the way. They drove him to the hospital, stayed with him, came back for me and took me to the bank to get cash. (Thanks, Sunny and Saurabh - you rock.)

His doctor had to administer local anesthesia in order to give Will two sets of stitches, one set to the muscle inside his forearm, and a second set to his skin (which he told Will was plastic surgery to minimize his scar). The guy was a joke. First, I asked why no one called me at the hospital to get permission to perform any procedures on him. They gave him antibiotics, tetanus booster, anesthesia without my permission. I was PISSED. I had to ask five times what antibiotics they used. They wanted to keep him overnight to elevate his hand. I asked him if it would be placed in traction; they said no. I asked how much it would cost - 10,000 just for the bed overnight. I said no way. His total bill for emergency room visit, shots, sutures, X-ray, "plastic surgery", doctor's fees, etc. was a little over 3,000 rupees, or USD $60. You couldn't even walk into an emergency room in the States for $60, let alone expect any service. The people at the hospital were extremely rude and seemed more interested in getting us to pay the bill and adding more services. We left and Will kept his hand propped up on pillows all night, just as they intended to do at the hospital.

We went back to Sitaram Bhartia Clinic for followup on Will's forearm and tey weren't thrilled with the quality of the stitches, but Will thinks he'll have a "cool scar". As long as it heals well, it's okay.

Last year, I accompanies a friend to a visit with her doctor about a "woman's issue". She was prescribed birth control pills. I recognized the medication's generic name and asked directly, "Are these birth control pills?" and the doctor confirmed. Now, the doctor never asked the patient any lifestyle questions, whether she was over 30, smoked, drank, was sexually active... there really wasn't informed consent. She wasn't made aware of the side effects or the dangers associated with mixing her lifestile with the medication and I thought it bordered on malpractice to me. Doctor's make assumptions because of your gender and that's NEVER good.

Bottom line, our experience with Indian health care has been very, very good and affordable. The only caveat we've seen is to really OWN your health care, even more than you would back home. It's your body - make sure you ask a lot of questions because they simply won't tell you unless you ask. Also inquire about options. Not everything requires hospitalization, and medication (in fact, there is a much higher use of traditional medicines, i.e., ayurvedic - homeopathic remedies along with traditional medications). And the care, really is care. With nursing ratios unheard of in Western countries, you are looked after with skill, professionalism and affection. They have time to look after you, instead of filling out volumes of paperwork.

In case you're in Gurgaon or moving here, Sitaram Bhartia can be reached at:
Sitaram Bhartia Clinic
Galleria Mall
DLF City Phase IV
Gurgaon, Haryana 122001
telephone: 0124 4131111

Later. :-)


  1. Jeanne, awesome post!! Thanks for sharing; your personal account of "adventures" really brings it to life. I wish you both good healing. Cheers from chilly Chitown. Chris

  2. Thanks for sharing this! Have noted the contact info and website! Am sure we'll need their services soon enough!

  3. Health Care in India does turn out to be cheaper than in the US, but there is also a lot of malpractice in the absence of strict regulation.

    Like you said, you need to be super careful and watchful while dealing with hospitals. I have heard too many horror stories of the lengths hospitals will go to, in order to extract a few more bucks out of patients.

    It always helps if you know a few doctors. A reference goes a long way towards getting good care.

  4. amreekandesi:

    I have nothing but nice things to say about my doctor, Manissha Choudhury (I know I spelled this incorrectly, but something like this...). She is capable, direct and doesn't let me cheat on my lifestyle changes. (I need a doctor like that.)

    Will should be getting his stitches out today... I don't have to go back until mid-April for a blood test and quick checkup. :-)

  5. wow - I hope you are both feeling better soon. We have already had a medical experience and it was pretty good too.

  6. Do you have hep A or hep C? because hep C is dangerous and if you have C, how'd you get it? that's scary.

  7. A bit personal, that question, but Hep A. Luckily, once I'm back to normal, I'm supposedly immune from getting it again. I suspect it was the office coffee on the night shift that did me in - my son and I had been eating/drinking the same things. If anything, he was being much more adventurous than me, and that was the only item on the menu that he hadn't ingested as well. Oh well. I hear there is a vaccine for A now... He's already gotten the Hep B vaccine. Should look into it, just in case.


  8. Medical care sounds pretty cheap, if somewhat sketchy. Maybe I should give up this rat race and pull a rickshaw in Delhi. I got a $75 copay just for an MRI!

    What can I expect to earn per year as an ... average Indian?

  9. Pulling a Rickshaw in Delhi will earn you a couple of dollars a day. Healthcare in India is cheap only for foreigners :)