Saturday, March 24, 2012

Health Care System in India and US

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Having lived in US for close to 10 years and now back in India for close to 2 years, I feel I have the right credentials to compare the health care system in India and US from the perspective of someone who has been through both systems extensively. I have visited the triage area (emergency room) a couple of times in the US, consulted with doctors numerous times and was with my wife when she had to stay in the hospital for close to 96 hours during our daughters delivery. After coming back I was admitted twice and my wife once to a hospital here due to viral fevers. So having experienced both systems, here is what I think.
Appointment with a Doctor
One day I went to my primary care physician (PCP – equivalent to general physician in India) in US with back pain. He told me that I need to go and see a specialist doctor and he also gave me few names. I came back home and started calling those doctors. The earliest appointment I could get with a specialist, that accepted my insurance, was after six days. I was forced to live with that back pain for those 6 days as I had no other option.
I almost had the same back pain after I came back to India when I was in Trivandrum. It was around 6:00 PM in the evening and I told my father about it. He made some phone calls and asked me to go and meet with a doctor who practiced in his house that was 5 kms (around 3.1 miles) away from my house. I reached there at 7:00 PM and within 30 minutes I could meet him. The doctor I met was one of the best in Trivandrum, a retired professor from Government Medical College. One cannot even imagine such a thing in the US.
Doctors
I always felt that doctors in US treat you as an object while doctors in India treat you more like a human. I mean ever for very small fever – the doctors in US treat you like a flow diagram we draw in computer classes. He never deviates from that may be due to the fear of suing from the patient if something goes wrong. They do umpteen numbers of tests taken before they start talking to you. A minor incident that comes to my mind – while doing MS a friend of mine had a huge boil in one of his legs. He went to this American doctor who told him that the only solution was a minor operation with local anesthesia. He got the date for the operation after 3 days and for three days he was given pain killers so that he wouldn’t feel the pain. My friend was mentally preparing for the operation when I met him that day. I told him that I had something similar when I was in India and the doctor told me to apply cold water and ice for couple of days as boil comes due of excess heat. He did what I told him and he got his boil healed in 2 days. Rarely will a doctor in US prescribe cold water for boil in your leg. Other than the lack of human touch I always felt that there is not much difference between the Indian and US doctors.
Cleanliness
Cleanliness inside hospitals and clinics – no prizes for guessing right - US hospitals and clinics are at least 1000 times better than Indian hospitals in terms of cleanliness. There is a good chance in India that you go to the hospital with one disease and come out infected with another due to unhygienic conditions in and around the hospital. Even the best Indian hospitals have a long way to go.
Guest Care
Most of the time nurses and other hospital staff in India behave very rudely to the patients and other visitors, the reason being that these people are highly understaffed and paid very less. They take out their frustration on patients who visit the hospital. This is not the case in the US. The nurses (you have to be extremely unlucky if you don’t find an Indian as a nurse) and other support staff in hospitals are so good and caring that they do everything to make you feel comfortable during your stay there.
Costs
I still remember this one even though it happened 10 years ago. While doing MS, we never had dental insurance. My room mate developed severe tooth pain and went to a dentist. Since he did not have dental insurance, the dentist charged him $300 for that visit and told him that he needed a root canal and will cost close to $1300. My friend who was studying then without a scholarship told the doctor that for that amount he can take a round trip ticket to India, meet his family, undergo root canal and still save $100 or $200. He came to India during summer and got the root canal done. Ten years later I got a root canal for one of my teeth and all I paid was Rs. 3500 ($70). This should sum up the cost of health care in US and India. You are as good as “dead” in US if you don’t have a good insurance. Health care is just not affordable.
Medication
My wife had a very bad allergy one night while we were in the US. She knew the medicine she needed to take, confirmed with her brother in India who is a doctor. But that happened to be a prescription drug and no medical store was ready to give it to her over the counter. She had to wait one full day to get an appointment with her PCP and get a similar medicine prescribed by the physician. No such problem in India. Walk into any medical store and you can get any medicine you want. If you are having a mild cold or fever you can even tell the pharmacist the symptoms and majority of the time they give you the correct medicine. Yes it may lead to misusing of drugs but for most of us this is very convenient.
Overall – my observation – health care in India and US are two different systems that cannot be compared. Each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. It takes sometime to adapt from one system to another.
If you have lived both in India and the US, I would like to know your take on the health care systems.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Solution to Kerala’s Solid Waste Disposal Problem?

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The most stupendous and bizzare issue confronting Kerala (and most of India) today and Trivandrum in particular are the mountains of highly hazardous and dangerous community wastes at Vilappilsala and in and around Trivandrum which have become public waste dumping sites. These have grown to such enormous size over years, not overnight, due to reckless arrogant attitude and lack of scientific temper and approach. These sites have been assigned erroneous misleading nomenclature as “Waste Treatment Plants and Factories”. Of course one can call them Factories/ Industries enticing tourists like rats, flies, mosquitoes, dogs, vultures who in return gift us regularly perennially with epidemics of hepatitis, Dengue Hemorrhagic fever, rat fever, typhoid fevers, diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, tuberculosis, and, other disorders damaging vital organs due to consumption of toxins through contaminated air, water and soil.
Kerala government and the Trivandrum Corporation are in a fix to find a solution to this problem. Here is a digester developed by Dr Thankamani, Professor and Head, Department of Biotechnology that can treat solid waste generated in hotels and kitchens and produce gas that can be used for cooking. A full scale plant designed by Murali V Iyer has started operational in Angamali. The plant has two reactors with capacity 2000 liters and 8000 liters that uses of waste from hotel and market waste as feed. It produces 600-800 liters of bio-gas per 10 kg of feed. The total biogas production from both the digesters is approximately over 30,000 liters per day!
It is heartening to note that lot of hotels have come forward to implement this technology. Below are few photos of this plant.





If you have any questions/queries on how to make one in your backyard you can contact Dr Thankami @ dr(dot)thankamani(at)gmail(dot)com.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

graVITas 2013 - Organizer Nomination Form

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Presentation on Resume Writing

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The presentation we gave in my University to my students about writing Resume and Statement of Purpose (SOP).


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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Funny Cartoons from Kerala

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Last updated: 10:00 AM, 28th May
Here is a collection of some funny cartoons that I come across about the social, political and economic situation prevailing in Kerala. Bookmark this page and I will try to update it regularly. If you come across something interesting please send it across to me.
Disclaimer: I am not the creator of any of these Cartoons/Jokes. I am posting this here for every one to enjoy the fun in it. My advice – Read It, Enjoy It and Forget It.Most of it are downloaded from what people have posted in Facebook.
Brutal killing of Chandrasekharan and the response given by Idduky district secretary of the party are the most talked about topic in Kerala. Here are few cartoon and caricatures going around.




Suresh Gopi is the quiz master in Asianet's "Kodeswaran", quiz program similar to "Kaun Benega Crorepathi". Most of the questions are so stupid that people are making all kinds of cartoons based on that show. Here is one of them.
Mammotty's latest release "CoBra" is getting more negative reviews on the first day. Some one has put this cartoon in Facebook that captures the flops Mammotty has given recently.
We have heard of so many funds being raised by political parties. Have you heard of "Case Fund". This fund is being raised by CPI(M) to fund the cases involving their comrades in various courts. Here is the scanned copy of the receipt. 
UDF government in its budget has increased the pension age of government employees from 55 to 56 years. Youth wing of LDF like DYFI and SFI have already started street fight against this government policy. Here is a cartoon going around that shows the retirement age of government employees in various states of India.
Piravom by-election counting got over today and UDF candidate Anoop Jacob won by over 12,000 votes. Here are some funny cartoons going around after that victory of the UDF candidate.
Cartoon in Scoop India


 Will update with more....

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Shreya Ghoshal’s Best in Malayalam

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Playback singer Shreya Ghoshal has become a household name in Malayalam. These days most of the good Malayalam songs are sung by her. Her Malayalam pronunciation is so good that it is very tough to imagine that her mother tongue is not Malayalam. Here is a collection of few of her hit songs in Malayalam. I am sure you will enjoy it.
Vidaparayuka Anooo (Movie - Big B)
Chanthu Thotille (Movie - Banaras)
Anuragha Vilochithanayi (Movie - Neelathamara)
Kizhakku pookkum (Movie Anwar)
Kanninima neele (Movie Anwar)
Manju mazha kattil (Movie Agathan)
Kaanamullal (Movie - Salt n pepper)
Kannoram chingaram (Movie - Rathinirvetham)
Chembarathi kammalittu (Movie - Manikakallu)
Avani thumbi (Movie - Snehaveedu)
Pattil ee Pattil (Pranayam)
Kannodu kannoram (Movie - Veeraputhran)
Pathinezhinte (Movie - Vellaripravinte Changathi)
Aarezhuthi aavo (Movie - Spanish Masala)
How was it?

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Sunday, March 04, 2012

Passport Reissue in Chennai – A Happy Saga

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(This blog post is written by my wife Ms Deepa Madathil about her experience of going to Passport Office to renew (reissue) her passport. Incidentally this is the first time she is writing some thing in my blog:)
Update 08/04/12: Deepa went to Katpadi police station after getting a call from there to come there for police verification of passport. Had to take a photo with her and proof of address. In just ten minutes, police verification is over.Call from police station came exactly one month after she applied for her passport.
Update 14/03/12: Deepa got her passport home 13 days after her visit to passport seva kendra!!
My passport was going to expire in a month. The very thought of going through a government office filling so many papers was itself frightening me. To start the process rolling Brijesh and I went to a travel agency in our school to find out the procedure. They told us that reissue of passport has changed a lot since the time we got our passport 10 years ago and now things are very systematic. Only issue is that we need to go from Vellore to one of the Passport Seva Kendra in Chennai with all the documents. The travel agency promised us help in getting the date for my passport interview (More about the travel agency later in this post.) 
So I got an appointment for the passport interview in Saligramam office at 11:45 AM on March 1st. From the previous experiences in Chennai traffic we decided not to take any risk, Brijesh and I reached the passport office around 9.00 AM, only to see a huge crowd waiting on the road. They allowed only applicants to go in and that too 30 minutes before the actual appointment time. Now we have over 2 hours to kill and we didn’t know what to do. We walked around and found a Big Bazaar. We did window shopping for close to an hour and for the next one hour we just sat outside on the stairs of Big Bazaar with me watching all the people coming in and out and Brijesh reading some book. 
I went back at 11:15 AM and was allowed in. Initial screening/checking is done by TCS employees and they allow you in, only if you have all the proper documents. They check your address proof, affidavits and old passport (in case of reissue/renewal). I had all the documents but my appointment letter that I took printout of, from the internet had “Normal” at one place and “Tatkal” at the other. The travel agent who helped me book the interview had screwed up big time. I thought I may be asked to come back again as these TCS guys were rejecting entry to almost 1 in 3 applicants because they didn’t have proper documents. I didn’t want to go back to Vellore and come back again another day. 
To my surprise the guy said “Madam, Please write a letter addressed to regional passport officer that you actually want your passport to be processed in normal mode”. I was very happy to hear that and I immediately wrote that letter. Now I had cleared the first level of screening and was given a token that read A->B->C->Exit. I needed to go through three more levels before I am sure I will get my passport reissued. 
Now the wait began – wait for my token number to be displayed in the big LCD TV. In 20 minutes my token number was displayed and I was in front of another TCS employee who was really very courteous. She looked at my bank statement and marriage affidavit and told me that both the documents were enough proof of our address. She told me that they didn’t accept the letter from our workplace for proof of address as it is a private organization. I had to take the marriage affidavit as we had lost our original marriage certificate. Now this girl took my finger prints and I paid the money, Rs. 1000, for reissue of my passport. 
Now again I had to wait – for my number to be called to meet the next officer. The next person I met was not a TCS employee but a “passport verification officer”, a government employee who was scrutinizing all the documents I had submitted. I went to him when my turn came and after going through all the documents asked me, 
Passport Officer (PO): Nothing personal, but why don’t you want to change your last name after marriage.
Me: Sir, I am from a community that follows matriarchal system and my last name is my mothers’ family name.
PO: So your mother will also have the same last name? 
Me: Yes Sir, You can see that in my old passport. 
He looked at my old passport and got it verified. He said “ok” and asked me to wait for the final verification. Now I was called to meet with the “Passport Granting Officer”, another government employee. He also scanned through all the documents and maybe seeing that my old passport was issued in Hyderabad asked me
PO: So you moved from one hot place (Hyderabad) to another hot place (Vellore)
Me: Smiles 
He looks at my employee letter skeptically and asks 
PO: You a student in VIT University?
Me: No Sir, I am a faculty there
PO: Oh, sorry, I am so used to seeing student bonafide certificates from your institute that I mistook this one for that
Me: Again Smiles
PO: So you moved directly from Hyderabad to Vellore
Me: I was in US for over five years before moving to Vellore 
He looks at the US visa stamped in my old passport and then signed on the form and said “Passport Approved, You can leave”! I looked at my watch and it was 12:45 PM – exactly 90 minutes since I got in. I was given a feedback form on my way out for which I marked “Very Good” for each question.
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Looking back now, only mistake I did in the whole process was going through the travel agent in booking the dates. Later I realized that it was an easy process that could have taken just 5 minutes for me to do it on my own for which I paid Rs 500 to that stupid travel agent. He took his own sweet time to do this registration and also filled it incorrectly. The new process at Passport Seva Kendra is so good and the only thing to take care of is you need to have the correct documents. The required documents for each kind of passport service are given here and if you follow the instructions you get your passport approved without any hassle.
Here is a video that gives all details of how to apply for your passport in Passport Seva Kendra.

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