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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Medical Camps - a futile exercise?

A medical camp generally is organized by a charitable institute. Yours truly, was very recently a part of one such camp. 250 patients were registered. A blood sugar, pressure, bone densitometry and body fat analysis examination was done by reputed doctors of the respective faculties. Patients were examined and counselled as regards their complaints.

Rural camp
Broadly, a medical camp may be either rural or urban.

A rural free camp makes plenty of sense since the locals have to travel far and wide to get their ailments diagnosed. So, if we could go to their place, it would be a tremendous boon for them. Poverty adds on to their woes and thus medical care is a luxury for them.
An urban camp on the other hand, seems a little irrational.

Why then is a free camp in the downtown of a city organized at all? Our answer lies in the participants. There are 3 sets of people who form the backbone of any camp.
First, the organizers which could either be the Pharma company or any Charitable institute.
Second. The Doctors attending the camp.
Third and most important. The Patients who are enrolled for the camp.
Everyone has their own vested interests in the camp. The organizers of charitable institute want to show the society that they have done some philanthropic exercise.
The pharma wants to push their products in the markets. Samples of medicines are given free to the patients. However, these drugs are sufficient enough for a week or two most of the time. The patient has to purchase the product after these samples are over especially since most of these are to be continued for prolonged periods.
The doctors don't mind the publicity.
And, the patients are hungry for the free samples and free medical advice that they get.

At the face of it, a medical camp basically consists of the patients and for the patients. But they forget one important fact. NOTHING IS FREE IN THIS WORLD. During the camp, their regular prescription is changed which is ethically incorrect unless there is strong indication for the same. The sugars checked generally are random values which makes it all the more difficult to titrate their drug doses.
Examination of their Blood Pressure, Biochemistry reports and XRays is done hurriedly since there are many patients to cater to. The margin of error thus increases.
Most of these patients fail to follow up predisposing them to side effects of the new drugs.
So, who is the loser in this whole enterprise? The patient obviously and to a certain extent the doctors as well since majority of these patients at the camp won't consult these doctors again.
The pharma is the only one to benefit.

The only way a free medical camp would be successful is if there are new cases of high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoarthritis, cancer or cataract detected. These however would need a regular follow up for their management.

To say the truth, this last one did change my opinion a little as regards medical camps. We detected at least 5-6 new diabetic patients and a few more than that were newly hypertensive. Probably the incidence of these silent killer diseases is way on the rise in the metro cities. But what I haven't yet figured out is how could people be ignorant about their ailments and not recognize its symptoms. I guess that's the reason why they are called SILENT in the first place.


  1. i have done numerous camps in my career.
    these were very early on in my career. it took me only 2 camps to realise the futility of these camps as a surgeon. if the patient cannot afford my consultation fees , the surgery is out of question .
    because of my illustrious family background i had to oblige a large number of social organisations and charitable institutes.
    so why did i continue to do these camps in spite of knowing the futility ..that is the question i asked myself many times ..
    my father and my grand father and family used to donate a large amount of money for the poor so they can have medical facilities .and for me i can only render my services to the needy as a gesture ...
    i try to do some surgeries at subsidised cost just for the charitable reason , although i hope this is perceived correct;y by the beneficiaries..

    dr rajesh dharia orthopedic surgeon
    teacher at the college of physicians and surgeons .. mumbai

  2. I would agree that the camp should be in the rural

  3. I once detected a new case of Duchenne's Muscular dystrophy at a camp. Such genuine gems are few and far between. Leaving these aside, camps are disastrously useless in a metropolis.