I think it’s unfortunate that the recent events have been turned into a Doctors vs Patients battle – at least in government-municipal hospitals.
Patients are aggrieved because they did not get the support they expected. Their unhappiness starts from the shoddy registration desk (reception doesn’t exist), running around for forms for hours, terrible infrastructure, no decent place to sit or have a cup of tea for relatives, endless waiting, no medicines and most importantly, no one to counsel, explain, support and guide – no one even to complain.
And all this is left to the junior doctor, who anyway has to see and treat more than the average number of patients that one doctor can manage correctly. Is he trained / competent / authorised to deal with this?
So naturally, the relatives are disappointed. They have a right to expect good health services.
Whose fault is it?
Are doctors at fault?
But, how can that be – he is anyway so overworked, undertrained and poorly supported.
So, are patients at fault?
Well, it is people’s right to get good health care, hospitals render services under their budget and run on taxpayer’s money and government is supposed to provide good facilities, so are they wrong to expect it?
It’s clearly the fault of the administration which has huge budgets, but does not run the health services well enough to meet the challenges.
But, very smartly, it knows that people will put the blame on doctors (who are government employees and the blame will never be on the owner or the administrator / decision maker of the service).
It is for the doctors and patients to unite and take the administration to task for this colossal negligence.
For example, can an OPD of 300 patients be handled by 4 or 5 junior doctors?
(In an OPD of 4 hours, that’s 18-20 patients and doctor per hour, a ‘junior’ doctor gets barely 3 minutes to manage every case – however complicated it may be – and counsel the patient. At times, even handle emergency cases.)
Thus, who places both, the doctors and the patients, at risk by doing this?
Clearly, the government and the administration.
By not making sure that they do their job well – which is to administer the services appropriately – it is obvious that they are not true to their job.
Then why is it that we –the patients and doctors – are fighting with each other, while the guilty government smartly sidesteps itself and get out of the chaos.
When did you ever hear that the health minister (who has the power to take decisions, allot tenders and budgets as well as check on the services) was taken to task or had to resign or even gheraoed by angry relatives?
Or even the hospital administrator / superintendent / dean were taken to task by disappointed relatives? Or even blamed?
It is the resident doctor who gets blamed, the curious mix of a trainee-healer-provider-counsellor-employee-exam-going student. It is the resident doctor who faces a patient’s on-the-edge stressed and disappointed family’s brunt.
The real movement must be launched to expose the guilty administration and their total lack of accountability.
The great Lal Bahadur Shastri famously resigned as Railway Minister after a train accident. He wasn’t driving that train. Yet, he showed that it was his job to organise the services properly and that is accountability.
Has any minister / bureaucrat resigned over falling health services or doctors (their employees) being beaten up due to poor facilities?
Ever wondered why they don’t even meet our representatives or discuss concerning issues with them? Is it not true that the owner of a company acknowledges his workforce / labour?
Then why is it that the government / administration does not acknowledge us, or at least during a strike?
Obviously, they have hidden themselves well behind this poor resident (who is their employee as well as a scapegoat) and keep projecting these doctors as the cause of their failure. As a lengthy discussion will alert the public on who is really responsible for their disappointment. Now, that’s a smart move.
What must we do?
We, as doctors, and even patients must understand that our battle is not with each other, but we must together take on the administration.
This should starts by focusing on the real issues with the health-care failures and bringing it into the public domain.
Caution: By projecting that doctors only want security, we are falling into the trap as people have been made to think that we are at fault – and now we want protection.
We need to rephrase our demands – which actually have always been – better health services, strong staff, better working conditions, better infrastructure, better sensitivity and facilities – for patients as well as doctors.
We are co-sufferers, not opponents. We are protagonists, not antagonists. We should be united – not against each other.
The author of the article is a Developmental Paediatrician, President, IAP (Mumbai).