Dynamics of Power: Imbalance in the Healthcare Sector

The rise of poor healthcare facilities in the suburbs of Mumbai trigger power imbalance between the staff and patients.

Cherryl Pereira, Writer

The healthcare in the suburbs of Mumbai, is seen to be torn in two main categories. On one hand we have the government hospitals, which have been known for its notoriously poor hygiene. Patients have reported spotting microbes in the food, complained about dirty toilets and lack of cleanliness in the room provided. However, all these media reports and complaints have fallen on deaf ears. On the other hand, we have private hospitals that charge ever so heftily that an ordinary person can afford. Moreover, if one has to claim their insurance, it’s a huge cut on one’s pocket.


One of the patients from Vasai-Virar who recovered from COVID-19, anonymously states, “I was admitted in a private hospital in Nalasopara. Though it was hygienic, the food was so terrible that most of the time, I preferred sleeping hungry even in that vulnerable state. My family was not often allowed to send tiffin boxes because of the fear of transmission. Moreover, the fees for the duration of 10 days were around 10 lakh rupees. Being from a middle-class family, it was a huge expense.” In a report by Deccan Herald, BJP leader Praveen Darekar has called out the state government for not intervening in the matter of private hospitals charging the COVID-19 patients substantially. He says, “An agitation will be undertaken if the state government doesn’t reimburse excessive money charged by the patients in the government hospitals.”


While the hospital staff may be the providers in this scenario, the right to treat the patients ill in a vulnerable state does not reside with them. Yet the appearance of such unethical conduct can be traced to prevailing faulty norms and obedience.

To live in such conditions, there’s an obvious dynamic that emerges between the medical health professionals and the patients. While the hospital staff may be the providers in this scenario, the right to treat the patients ill in a vulnerable state does not reside with them. Yet the appearance of such unethical conduct can be traced to prevailing faulty norms and obedience. A report by Mid-Day supports this notion. It states that a woman lost her life because the hospital denied entry to her. She had to wait in the ambulance for four hours till the oxygen ran out. Moreover, her daughter reports that the staff was non-cooperative and very rude. This is not the only novel thing that has happened. As a matter of fact, negligence in the healthcare sector has been prevalent for quite a while now.


In the past few years, a lot of hospital staff have turned a blind eye towards the care-giving of the patients. A woman from Virar who delivered her baby boy in the year 2017 claims, “I was made to wait in an isolated room for almost 48 hours. Despite complaining about the excruciating labor pain, I was denied a room or delivery procedure. There were no family members allowed to visit her which made me extremely anxious. I was in so much pain that I had to rush to a store-room nearby and push out the baby unattended. There was no room provided until the staff heard the baby cry.” When asked if she raised her voice against such a treatment, she responded, “I didn’t complain about this later on since I was consumed by the happiness of the new arrival.”

Investigating possible reasons behind such behavioral patterns and the emergence of the power, one observes that the situation coincides with the Stanford Prison Experiment by Philip Zimbardo. Subjects were divided randomly in two groups of prisoners and guards. The objective of the experiment was to analyze the effects of social expectations, conformity pressure, labeling, and role-playing. The abuse of prisoners took an upsurge in terms of its extent, such that the experiment had to be shut without being completed. The conclusion of the experiment was evident. Under some social conditions, there is a drastic impact seen of the powerful norms concerning social roles, which causes good people to do bad things.


There’s a lot of perceived inferiority, use of foul language and lack of respect towards the patients as humans. Such power dynamics has increased during the pandemic as a result of stricter rules and regulations for the staff. Consequently, there is an increased conformity pressure causing ill-behavior.

Applying this research study to a hospital setting, helpless patients who might seem rebellious initially are not in the best physical condition and gradually become passive over the course of their duration. There’s a lot of perceived inferiority, use of foul language and lack of respect towards the patients as humans. Such power dynamics has increased during the pandemic as a result of stricter rules and regulations for the staff. Consequently, there is an increased conformity pressure causing ill-behavior. Therefore, the ‘evil’ behavior that we read about becomes evident. Nevertheless, there is also some room for personal heroism. Individuals who have high resistance to such situational pressure would actually perform their job duties sincerely. Such individuals, if given the right positional power, can improve the healthcare conditions for good.

Cherryl is a third-year Psychology student at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. She is passionate about music and mental health.

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