Chennai that was Madras is the medical capital of our country, as is well known. It also probably has the maximum number of private hospitals per square kilometre in India. When it comes to density of doctors, however, in the view of The Man from Madras Musings, it is probably pipped to the finishing post by Trichy, which has two doctors for every street. When asked by MMM, locals averred that almost all of them have good practice, chiefly treating patients who flock from the mofussil. On lean days, MMM assumes they get by treating each other.

This prosperity is apparently not vouchsafed to the hospitals in Chennai, several of whom, so MMM is given to understand, are going around banks, cap in hand, and asking if they (the banks) could spare a few crores or so. Many promoters of hospitals, MMM hears, are as sick as mud and it is a wonder that they are not admitting themselves into their creations for treatment, thereby bumping up the creation’s balance sheet.

All of this was rather surprising to MMM, who in the past few months has had to visit a few hospitals, thankfully not as a patient but as an attendant to the elderly. Most of these facilities gave MMM the impression of bursting at the seams with people particularly from the east, northeast and ‘Middle East’, all of them with wads of cash, ready to spend on several illnesses, some real, others imagined. But that, according to those in the know, is all illusory, rather like life as depicted in Hindu philosophy. The number of people in any hospital, say these industry watchers, is no indication of the actual billing. Each patient apparently is accompanied by at least four attendants and these are not in any way adding to the cash counters. And, so, the billing is actually just one-fifth in proportion to the number of people milling around.

It is probably owing to these difficult times that MMM noticed a few advertisements released by hospitals in Chennai. The first one, by a facility better known to set right your bones but clearly wanting a share of your heart, had the following message:

Are you en route to heart failure?
If so, come and join our heart failure camp.

MMM, on reading this wondered if the camp was meant to ensure a heart failure. But surely that was something that the mere sight of the bill for treatment could have ensured.

Then there was this other one, seen sometime ago:

Are you diabetic? Then this exhibition is for you
Are your parents diabetic? Then this exhibition is for you
Are you over fifty and overweight? Then this exhibition is for you
Are you not diabetic? Then this exhibition is for you

Clearly this was one of those exhibitions that cater to all tastes. But none of these campaigns are making the cash registers ring. Adding to the woes of these hospitals is the Great Surcharge Tax, aka GST. Many patients develop additional complications when they see this amount added to the already inflated bill. MMM was witness to several of them roundly cursing the powers-that-be for having formulated this tax. The swearing at was in sharp contrast to the Hippocratic oath.

Have you registered for Sriram V’s tours? The upcoming ones are: