"Doctors, you're going to be a hated lot. (Your) greed for money are leading to patients being overcharged." Health minister Suresh Shetty's fusillade caught the audience at Shanmukhananda hall by surprise on Sunday.
"Like education barons, they (doctors) will become a hated community, if they don't stop unethical practices," Shetty continued.
The Association of Medical Consultants' (AMC) function mostly consisted of doctors. The minister then gave some examples.
"I came across a case where someone was charged Rs 13 lakh for delivery and the doctor was still not satisfied," went the first. "There was this case in a big hospital where the doctor recommended one more procedure on a patient who was dead. A ward boy had to inform him the patient was dead," was the next.
"I can narrate a large number of such examples. I am not doing that. I only appeal to doctors to regain trust and respect from people. I had a family doctor, Dr Prabhu at Prabhadevi, who charged only Rs 2 for medicines. About 20 years ago, doctors were respected...that's not the situation today," Shetty said.
The recent elections saw people's anger against politicians. The same anger will be seen against doctors and those who have made a big business of education, he warned.
He wondered why heart stents are priced Rs 3 lakh. "In government-owned JJ Hospital, stents used to be priced Rs 1.40 lakh. After I decided to buy stents through a tender process, the hospital is getting them at Rs 23,000. Now, even the central government is buying at our rates," he added.
In the past five years, the health ministry has launched several initiatives to help the poor. The blood-on-call scheme has no parallel in the world. Every taluka has blood storage facilities, and by dialling a number, any nursing home or hospital could get it.
"I am aware some private hospitals are speaking ill of this scheme and are forcing patients' relatives to buy blood from private sources. I have a list of eight such hospitals and I am going to blacklist them. We want blood to be sold only at fixed rates," he said.
Joint commissioner of police (traffic), Dr B.K. Upadhyay, who was the guest of honour, said his department has written to the state government to impose some restriction on the number of vehicles being registered in Mumbai.
"Everyday, 400 vehicles are being registered in the city. Already, we have 22 lakh vehicles and many more enter the city from outside. Traffic regulation is becoming a serious problem. The number of fatal accidents are also on the rise," he said.