With the advent of newer drugs and sophisticated technology in the field of medicine, the costs of healthcare have escalated at an exponential rate. Rising healthcare costs are a problem all over the world. Even industrialized nations are finding it difficult to regulate the costs. As a result only a small proportion of the society can afford the healthcare that they receive. It is a common misconception among the masses that healthcare has become unaffordable because doctors demand hefty salaries. This is a ridiculous concept. The major part of a hospital bill is taken by the hospital management towards cost of infrastructure, consumables, medicines, etc. Only a small fraction of it is paid to the doctor.
Doctors have spent a major part of their youth getting trained. Medical College, Specialty and Super-specialty training - all these take a minimum of 15 years. While in training, they also have to support their families and pay hefty tuition fees. Most of them haven’t had proper sleep in all these years of training. The long working hours take a toll on their personal lives leading to divorce and failed relationships.
The quality of family life is also altered significantly. Many don’t even get a chance to see their children grow up simply because they are always busy at the hospital attending to emergencies. They aren’t able to spend quality time with their children and spouses. These take a toll on the mental health of physicians too making them more prone to depression and suicide. The modern society on one hand is grappling with an acute shortage of doctors. On the other hand, an exceedingly large number of doctors are facing burnout or committing suicide. Every year several medical students and resident doctors commit suicide because they are unable to cope with the stress of medical training.
In the current scenario, healthcare has been turned into a commodity. The concept of the ‘family doctor’ has been lost in the era of corporatization of medicine. Smaller clinics and hospitals are finding it difficult to sustain themselves. The competition from multi-specialty corporate hospitals, which have big investors backing them, is driving smaller establishments out of business. Doctors are no longer finding it viable to practice independently or as a group. They are forced to work for corporate hospitals for paltry amounts. They are often given ‘targets’ by the hospital management in order to increase the profits. The net effect - overall cost of healthcare goes up and patients cannot afford it anymore.
Violence against doctors is another grave problem. The risk of being sued for malpractice is quite high. Malpractice insurance takes away a significant portion of a doctor’s earnings. Doctors are often vilified by politicians as well as the public for being 'greedy' or money minded. It is true that certain doctors do indulge in unethical practices. Every profession has its share of black sheep. The entire profession cannot be labelled as corrupt and unethical for the misdeeds of a few.
Doctors' salaries should not be viewed as the sole cause for rising cost of healthcare. Bad policies by the government and hospital managements are the main culprit. After spending the twilight of their youth in training with bare minimum salaries and long working hours, the least any physician can expect in return is decent monetary compensation.