Hospitals and Trains in an Emerging Economy

Today is day 8 of the trip, and I’m still surviving. Less than six days until I’m home, and I’m looking forward to being back with my wife.

I’m still not sleeping enough…less than four hours last night again. And I wasn’t even able to really rest on the train or get comfortable enough to even try to sleep.

Train? Yes, train. The day ended with what was supposed to be an almost 8 hour train ride from Chennai to Tirupur. It was not a first class travel experience…the sleeper car (which was at least air conditioned) was uncomfortable and not the cleanest place in the world. Also the bathrooms I found first on the train were not western style bathrooms and so it was either avoid eating or be forced to try to squat on an eastern latrine. There was a western style bathroom that I found out about later which made me happy.

We had several delays on the train ride…we’re not totally sure but there appear to be engine issues. We arrived in Tirupur about four hours late, at about 1:30AM IST. I did manage to get a little sleep on the train, though, and I’ll be better off tomorrow for that. Assuming, that the sleep I got doesn’t make it harder to get to sleep here at the hotel.

This morning we visited Apollo Hospital in Chennai. Apollo is the largest private hospital system in India. They operate 50+ hospitals around the country and the only major city without at least one facility is Mumbai. It was interesting (and I know the economics of why this is) but their overall annual revenue for the 50+ hospitals is less than the revenue for the one OSF facility in Peoria. That’s not a totally fair comparison since a dollar buys more in India than the U.S., but definitely not $50 more. I won’t put a rant about insurance and health care economics here, but suffice it to say we’re overpaying because there’s no real market.

The hospital visit was great. Loved the ability to see a health care facility in India operating. They’re growing at a quick rate in size and revenue, and they’re providing a helpful alternative to the state run hospital system.So my three interesting things today:

  1. On the way to the hospital I saw, on a shop roof, a very large rat being pecked at by a raven. The rat must have been sick or dying because he didn’t scurry away as the raven went after him.
  2. I noticed (probably been this way all week, but what can I say) that most of the trees have black and white stripes painted on them. Apparently they do this to mark them as government property and makes them untouchable. Otherwise people would just cut them down.
  3. The hospitals obviously don’t have privacy protocols. Having lived in a world with HIPAA for so long, it was strange that we walked around the hospital, with cameras out, and there was no attempt to shield us from patient information, even in walking through radiology where the views of MRIs and such were on display.

A full day.  Very tired.  Ready for bed.  I’ll let you know how Tirupur goes tomorrow!

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