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The good doctor

The good doctor

Author: Amitabh Srivastava
Publication: India Today
Date: February 9, 2009
URL: http://indiatoday.digitaltoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=1&task=view&id=26693&sectionid=24&issueid=91&latn=2

Introduction: He's 73 years old and works seven days a week, seeing one patient after the other.The most incredible part of this physician's tale is his consultancy fee: Rs 5 only.

The relentlessly rising cost of healthcare has drowned every home in medical bills. In his own way, Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, 73, has helped many find some relief. This doctor from Ranchi wields his stethoscope at the cost of Rs 5 per patient, irrespective of their economic background.

His consultancy fee has remained unchanged since 1966, making him perhaps the most inexpensive practitioner in the country. He doesn't even mind seeing patients for free if he knows that Rs 5 is unaffordable for them. The humble doctor also gives away the medicines he gets from pharmaceutical companies.

Everyday when the clock strikes half past ten, Mukherjee, who was the head of the pathology department at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in 1993, settles down in his clinic where he stays till 7.30 in the evening. The first half of his day is usually dedicated to his pathology laboratory, while he devotes the rest of the day to patients.

"Although I have not been able to devote as much time as I want to because of my declining health, I never refuse a patient, be it over the weekend or at odd hours," he said. Age may be getting in the way of his cause, but it is no deterrent to this indefatigable man who did his MBBS from Patna Medical College and Hospital. Mukherjee pursued his MD at Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital, where he also had a stint as teacher. He has been translating his Hippocratic oath into deeds from the day he took over as civil assistant surgeon in 1959. In 1966, he reached Ranchi, which is now home to him.

Over the years, the doctor has made a few compromises to bring benign smiles on the pale faces of the poor. Even with the little money earned in the name of income, he does not shy away from making donations to schools. Forty-two years after settling in Ranchi, Mukherjee is still treating patients for a pittance. What drives him? "A poor man's plight and the realisation that my contribution is still too little to make a difference," he says. In fact, he has refused requests for interviews and awards from international NGOs. "I don't do it for publicity," he says. And the good doctor continues with a quiet conviction.

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