Friday, 29 March 2013

Sheryl Sandberg's talk

Sheryl Sandberg's talk

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


A school time friend's seventy six year old mother had been a victim of substandard care in one of the top corporate hospitals in Mumbai. She had had a fall with significant injuries when she had actually gone there for a minor planned procedure on her foot.

I cringed as I read this on the Facebook. I had recently attended a meeting in my hospital about such "SUIs", serious untoward incidents. Sadly, they happen everywhere.

There was an outburst of comments from friends all over the world. While some were sympathetic and wished and prayed for a speedy recovery, a lot of them were angry comments advising my friend to complain or take the legal route. I had expected this. (Serves me right for constantly berating other professions like administrators, on Facebook). At some point an outburst against my fraternity was going to happen.

When I decided to become a doctor, it was considered a respectable and noble profession but now if people around you in a party or in the train (in India) find out you are a doctor, you get to hear the worst horror stories of a disillusioned, suffering yet helpless populace, struggling against a society which treats Healthcare as a money making proposal.

When I heard about my friend's mum's predicament, I remembered our experience when my mother was admitted to a private hospital (in the Central Government Health Scheme panel), with fractures involving her back bone.

My brother, a plastic surgeon had given strict instructions, nobody, and he meant nobody was to move mother unless he was around. I now understand fully why he was so careful. He did not expect the staff to be aware of what multiple fractures in the spine meant, how one wrong move would impact mother's condition, present and future. Unfortunately he was right, most of the staff were clueless.

Today when I attend all the various training sessions which have been identified as mandatory for all the staff , we joke about how tedious they are and in spite of all the training, we don't completely avoid errors in the system. Manual handling, fire, infection control and medicines management are a few of the sessions which all staff have to do. But at least doing training sessions brings about awareness of the standard operating procedures and that minimises risks.

When my mother and my father in law fell ill, I realised how difficult it is to get accurate unbiased advice which one can trust, in the mayhem of private providers of healthcare in the city of Delhi. This was when there were so many doctors in the family and amongst friends.

Healthcare Costs are spiralling everywhere. It impacts in different ways. In America the cost of improved drugs, devices and treatment and better diagnostics along with more litigation, pushes up Health Insurance costs.

In UK, where the National Health Service is state funded, it has led to a tier of middle and more senior management whose job should have been to facilitate safety and quality in health care but has led to the opposite, while trying to drive down costs.

The  Francis enquiry into excessive deaths in one of the hospitals in NHS is now asking for a change in culture, a culture of openness, where staff and doctors are able to voice their concerns without being bullied for whistle blowing.

One is always suspicious of pharma companies' marketing budgets, which allow for multiple travels abroad for prescribing doctors in India and the cuts which diagnostic laboratories and imaging facilities have on offer for referring doctors.

When Aamir Khan brought this up in Satyamev Jayate, the doctors were up in arms. But in my view, the profession needs to introspect. It is because we have not been able to regulate ourselves, because our regulators and institutions are not working for the people, we are seeing a host of others joining in the feast, controlling and pushing up costs. Spiralling costs will lead to increased expectations, more litigation and mistrust in the profession.

The basic duty of care is something we should hold ourselves accountable for, morally and ethically before we think about the fact that we are legally accountable.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Are you my friend? Oh yes you are.

"You are like a teenager," my sixteen year old daughter said, "what do you keep doing on the phone?"

My daughter had been down with flu and between soluble paracetamol, orange flavoured Neurofen, steam inhalations and conversations about the ever looming GCSEs, we had had some time together talking mostly about her worries over grades and how much work she would have to catch up on.

She seemed more worried about my affinity to my smart phone, then. Tired after waking a few times during the night and worrying about her, I had no energy to do all the things I had planned to during my March end annual leave.

All I seemed to have energy for, even after my eyes were stinging, was Facebook. I tried explaining this sudden interest to daughter dear. I had been part of groups of the schools I had attended for while now but this new group I had been added to was different!

I am one of those lucky people who went to an all girls school till year 10 and went to an all girls Medical School, probably the only one in the world. A group for my all girls missionary school, existed as I am sure groups would have existed for the contemporary boys missionary school too, there wasn't much happening out there. Much like the neighbourhood cafe where there is a steady stream of visitors, but nothing as exciting and tantalising as the night club.

But now I am part of this day and night club/group  on Facebook, which includes both the girls and the boys school. Boy! It seems to have set all our facebook accounts on fire.

Shivaniji of Awakening with Brahmakumaris fame, had tried explaining how we should be soul conscious and understand that the age and appearance of our body costumes, over the successive births and deaths we encounter, doesn't determine our journey over time.

I think facebook allows you to not see these body costumes and to people in this group time seems to have stood still. We (40-50 year olds) were actually behaving like a bunch of teenagers, chatting away at all times of the day and night...chats which would put the teenagers to shame, complete with romantic songs (with You Tube attachments), various emoticons, suggestive and flirtatious innuendos and numerous posts to relax, tickle and stimulate our hearts, minds and souls.

Coming back to the teenager at home, I am now having a problem practising what I preach. I got told off by my 11 year old- "Aaaaall this time you have been on Facebook"

I am not so sure how I would explain anything if they were to sneak peek in more detail.

I used to get annoyed in the hospital, when students would come into the rest room periodically to check their phones. I wonder whether I will be able to stop myself from doing that.

Mark Zuckerberg has done what spiritual gurus have been asking us to do. Live in the moment, make soul to soul connections pleasant and positive and be happy.

But sadly, I have, as I am sure all of us have, promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep.

I pray to God, to give me strength to pull myself away from the irresistible urge to keep checking for the red icon with the number of notifications on the usual blue facebook back ground  (a sight so addicting that I seem to see it in my dreams) at the dining table, while my children are talking, when I am watching TV, when I should be resting, when I could be reading a book or even when I am speaking on the house phone. O God please help me.

I need to do this or else I am going to have to tell my children- "Do as I say, not as I do"

And that, for parenting standards is soooo baaad!!!!

So long guys, gotta see whats happening on.....Ooops!!!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Jaa ki rahi bhavna jaisee, prabhu moorat dekhi tin taisi- If you are lazy, u believe the rest of the world is too!

Today is international women's day and there is so much talk about the glass ceiling. I realised long time back that my job at the hospital can be done by some one else, but nobody can be a mum to my children and if they don't turn out right, I will not regret, not having done this or that at work, but will tear myself to pieces, wondering where I had gone wrong at home.

I have been a feminist from my Safdarjung days, when men would refuse to donate blood for the women who bore their children, but over time getting married and having children hasn't diluted my feminist credentials, much. At least my husband is candid about these things. Once when he was trying to convince me to receive his parents from the railway station in our newly acquired Zen, I asked him why he was out to prove to his parents that he was bad and I was great. He said in a Chanakya like strategist voice- "Thats the idea, that way they have no expectations from me and loads from you" Really?!!

Women at the top have it tough. Even top heroines get paid less than their male counterparts and even though Madhuri Dikshit, Kajol and Sridevi are reversing the trend of retiring after motherhood, it is not the norm. However, I learnt in an interview recently that Sharmila Tagore did it successfully, all those years ago. Hats off to Late Nawab Pataudi who kept sane while she romanced Kakaji by saying- "Heroes are many, but there is only one captain."

 I do believe that most men are just not capable of as much work as most women are, and the worst thing is that the men then find numerous excuses to prove that the reverse is true.

I recently had a run in with my boss who was trying to imply that I was trying to shirk work by not agreeing to try and be at two places, at the same time. My take simply is that the idea that I might be trying to get away from work, occurs to you only because it is on your mind all the time, not mine. Jaaki rahi bhavna jai see, prabhu moorat dekhi tin taisee.

Around about the time when a pregnant Marissa Mayer was appointed CEO at the floundering Yahoo, an article in the economist said that a lot of women feel that the men propagate a culture of drinking gallons of coffee and socialising during the day, only to then stay back after five for strategic meetings, which could easily have been earlier. Naturally the women, who find it hard to adapt to this culture and want to get back to the nursery at six, gradually make themselves content to not pursue top jobs.

The same Marissa Mayer though has been criticised for reversing the "work from home"rule for Yahoo.

This reminds me of what Sugata Mitra of "Hole in the Wall" fame said in one of his TED talks. He said School education as it exists today was created by the British Raj to ensure it churned out people with similar skills and culture to ensure the bureaucracy supporting the Raj, which was spread over many continents without internet or telephone, could function smoothly. The skills like good handwriting and mental maths are now obsolete, as these jobs have been taken over by computers. Alvin Toffler on the other hand said the schools were trying to be like factories from the Industrial age, where sirens made sure the workers were present in the assembly line to start production.

Whichever it was, the schools still maintain strict timings, but the IT industry in recent times decided that flexibility and innovation was key and thus allowed its employees to work from home. Wonder what would happen if kids were allowed to attend school from home. Also it was forced to be flexible with times because of the internet age when India had to complete back office tasks before America woke up.

At Yahoo, people took up part time jobs with other companies, while being allowed to work from home, forcing the hot off the press CEO Marissa Mayers to call for "All hands on deck" policy. Good luck to Marissa Mayers! If she manages to turn the fortunes of the struggling company Yahoo, men will have to put up with more cracks in the glass ceiling.

Most regular working women resent people like Marissa Mayers, who worked through her two week maternity leave, because women like her are empowered to pursue their dreams by what they can afford in terms of child care and household help and expect lesser mortal women to be as ambitious and relentless in the pursuit of excellence, when doing a job.

Then there are others (single women and women without young families)who resent the fact that some women take the work life balance to the other extreme by taking frequent maternity leave interspersed with sick leave and leave to look after dependants and attend hospital appointments.

Employers should allow flexibility to a certain extent, if it helps people reach their true potential. But more importantly women in their work force need to be treated as individuals with their unique abilities, without painting them with the same brush, based upon their own views and opinions from past experience.

I have tried to make peace with my boss without treading on his toes while trying to get him to see my difficulties but....jaa ki rahi bhavna jai see, prabhu moorat ......