Where is my Gold ?

Public perception regarding a doctor’s earnings in casual discussions leaves me silently screaming and pulling my hair. Even those who are themselves barely eking out an existence in poor environs of their Range Rovers and Jaguars tend to complain of being robbed at the “Doctor’s shop”. The stories I hear at gatherings where “Glenlivet” flows in gutters make me squirm within my “holed” inner wear. I recently attended the 1st Birthday party of a child who was born premature and remained in NICU for 30 days. The entire chit chat I had during the 5 star Hotel theme party was being told different versions of how the poor family was looted by the hospital 1 year ago. Somehow the alleged Bill kept increasing in different versions.

On the occasion that I have been provoked to defend the doctors’ fee I am confronted with smirks and knowing winks. My argument that I am under debt of 90 lacs 27 years after practice is cheerfully relegated to dustbin with “must be due your creating an empire”. One once flitterati commented “Doctor you need to take care of yourself” , “you never take a break , shut down your “shop” for a few days, and go on a vacation”. I nearly screamed “Lady I cannot afford your foreign vacations” no matter what Modiji says. Maybe I can afford 3-4 days loss of earnings but this loss is compounded by the salary I still need to pay my 30 member staff plus the worry what mischief they will do behind my back spoils my vacations.

In High Court some years back, the Judge who was hearing a case where a nursing home had been sealed in Patiala , was berating doctors & hospitals for looting the public. The appellant weakly protested that even the advocate representing him was also charging 20 lacs . The Judge immediately congratulated the advocate for charging what in his view was a respectable amount for advocates. 
There may be a few doctors whom I know who have created wealth but most of them moved into medical or paramedical education where they earned their crores. Others became businessmen with interests in pharma , or other industries related to medicine. Pure medical professionals who are in the high income group are extremely rare and can be counted on fingertips. Most of the successful doctors would in their lifetime have built a house for themselves got their children educated within India decently and maybe marry them off. That is the extent of the riches.

What is not visible to the public is the daily spontaneous or forced charity done by doctors. Free consultations for poor patients is very common, one poor paid patient seeking opinion for another family member free of charge is ubiquitous, and the phone call of the politician, IAS, Judge to attend to a person also means “Do not charge”. This is over and above the discounts which are routinely given on all inpatient bills depending on patients socio economic status. Most doctors contribute their services in free camps, or with charitable organizations at least for some time.
I once tried asking for discount on my dinner bill in a 5 star hotel where I had taken my wife on “her” anniversary. The looks I got from the waiter confirmed that the maid while washing clothes has mixed my originally white shirt, that I was wearing, with coloured clothes. When Investment consultants have to return empty handed from my chamber there is a perplexed look on their face specially if they are new in their field. No seasoned Financial consultant would waste time on routine doctor unless he intends to defraud him with a Ponzi scheme.

Yes there are stories of millionaire Doctors who claim to cure epilepsy /ulcrative colitis / Asthma / Rheumatoid Arthritis with Ayurvedic / natural products while actually mixing and giving schedule X drugs in irrational combinations and doses. Mostly they are not qualified doctors of modern scientific medicine. If however you intend to cheat the public then you can amass a fortune in much easier ways and do not need to practice medicine for it.

Most doctors in India take loans, invest a lot, pay through their nose in interest, taxes and utilities. The sacks of gold presumed to be available with doctors is an illusion I wish were true and those who are still unconvinced will be offered 50% of the crores which they think I have earned in my 27 years of practice , and do not know about , if they can help me locate it.

Dr Neeraj Nagpal 
Convenor,Medicos Legal Action Group, Managing Director MLAG Indemnity,
Ex President IMA Chandigarh
Director Hope Gastrointestinal Diagnostic Clinic,
1184, Sector 21 B Chandigarh 
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