To be frank, though I have vaguely heard about “Yellow Fever”, I never read up on it. Only when I got to know that I needed to get vaccinated for it did I read up and understand the basics. King Institute of Preventive Medicine and Research is a WHO (World Health Organization) authorized center for Yellow Fever vaccination. The appointment could be made online and it costs 500 INR. You are asked to report before 10.30AM. I reached the center around 10AM and surprisingly found over 100 people waiting for the vaccination. Wow … I was expecting just myself and a couple of other idiots 🙂 Out of curiosity, I went asking the people as to “WHY” they were taking the vaccines. Most of them were living/working in risky areas, like Africa.
There were 3 counters: One where you hand over the printout of the online appointment and payment and get signed in, one where they collect your Passport and process the vaccination card (Card is Yellow :-)), and finally the counter where you get the actual vaccination.
The staff were very helpful and within an overall 25-30 minutes, I was out of there. Though the buildings in the institute looked old and worn, the tree cover and the ample parking spaces made up for it.
From King Institute, I went straight to one of a major Indian hospital chain’s clinic to get vaccinations for some other deadly stuff. After struggling for parking space and having to park in such a way that I had to crawl out of the car like a snake, I went to the Immunization section and listed the vaccines I wanted. Based on the portfolio of vaccines I needed, we concluded on a subset that I would take during this particular visit. One nurse came and called me inside and administered the vaccines. While doing so, she said that I had to make the payment for the vaccines at the counter and there was also a “vaccine dispensing charge” … I have never heard of it and for the first time in my memory, I had to pay a “bribe” to a nurse (in cash) for administering a vaccine and that too in one of the most famous private hospitals in India … Sheesh!
After getting the vaccines, I enquired about the required doses for the remaining vaccines I needed. The nurse gave me the information. Since these are critical vaccines, I thought I would double-check and asked another nurse to re-confirm and she gave me a totally different information. I was confused. I went to see one doctor (Who was catching flies in his office :-)) and asked him for opinion. He gave me a 3rd set of recommendations, which differed from what the two nurses gave me earlier. I headed to the reception and asked an important-looking lady based there to please check with some knowledgeable folks (This is a famous and well known Hospital chain, mind you) and let me know the exact dosage required. No wonder, she came out with a 4th set of recommendations! 🙁 By now, I was even more confused than when I started off.
At the reception, I made the payment for the vaccines. I have the habit of keeping the boxes of the vaccines as a souvenir and while I was reading the labels, I noticed that the listed MRP (Maximum Retail Price) was half of what I had just paid. I asked the cashier about it and she in turn went into the administration office to look into it. It turns out that there was a “mistake” and I was charged 100% more. Please note that this vaccine is NOT cheap by any yardstick … By now, I was getting frustrated and I pointed out the ridiculous situation where the customer, totally by chance, found out the issue. What if I did not check the label and went away? What about the huge amounts I had paid to this Hospital for previous vaccines I had taken? How could I trust those prices? Talk about rip-off!
A country of 1.3 Billion people … (Of which at least 70% struggle financially). And the state of healthcare! Of course, one cannot generalize “Government” and “Private” hospitals like this … I am sure there are Government Hospitals where the care would be ridiculous as well. My concern is about the cost of healthcare being totally defined by “How much can a patient afford” and “How do I maximize my profits”. Looks like Ethics, even in Healthcare, is thrown out of the window.