Doctor! Doctor!

Manohar PhotoManohar D Shrestha / Kathmandu: In recent times, two deaths in quick succession in two different hospitals in the valley incensed families and friends of the deceased. The result: the grief-stricken bereaved members let their grievances out for their irreparable losses by resorting to vandalism and manhandling of doctors. The government added its two bits by planning to make individual doctors accountable for compensation payouts to the victims’ families. One thing leads to another. And the doctors reacted in the best way they know -by shutting off lifesaving health services. Everyone knows what happens when health service is shut down completely. The doctors came up with their own panache for returning to work: jail without bail to the bereaved vandals. While they await government response to their recommended diagnosis, they seem to be amenable to dispense their service wearing bike helmets and black armbands. This sounds more like a circus, doesn’t it?

In the eyes of the commoners, doctors have long lost their status as gods and superhuman that people once associated them with for their role in saving precious lives. The blame for losing their revered pedestal in the society partly goes to the doctors and the hospitals that ‘enslave’ them with meagre stipends. It costs a fortune to become a doctor and if they don’t start earning a handsome salary from day one, it might be difficult to recoup their investment. The poor docs are thus equally under pressure. Also, political interference and preference in internship and appointment of less deserving over meritorious candidates can dent a doctor’s pride and hurt their egos.

At times, the doctors’ personal attitude and behaviour are also responsible for their fall in the eyes of their patients. A company doctor that I went to years ago for my mandatory health clearance stipulated in my employment terms told me on my face that he was a royal doctor, insinuating perhaps that I was undeserving of his service and attention. Words got around about his attitude and behaviour and the no-nonsense company swiftly put him in his place. Another place, another doctor. One day a junior colleague walked into my cubicle highly agitated. He was flushed with anger at being passed over for those further down the line in the appointment list. The doctor apparently advised him petulantly never to argue with a doctor for his own good.

Feeling humiliated he returned hurt without medical examination. Then there was a time while I lay on a bed in an emergency room wondering whether I will live or die, with blood all over my face, choking on my own spittle, a doctor arrogantly commanded me in thundering voice to swallow it. Enraged, I sat up and told the doctor in equally thundering voice not to touch me. I ordered him to call his boss, a drinking buddy, and reported on his behaviour. The drinking buddy not only pulled up the junior doctor in front of me, which I found unpalatable, but also did a fine job on my face, neatly putting 22 stitches. Not everyone has the pleasure of a doctor’s company. As it is I still shuddered at the thought of what would have happened to me had I missed the doctor by about 15 minutes. Fine medical service should be available to every one, including friends and foes and rich and poor.

Things have not changed much however. Every time I read a notice on the wall of a private clinic mocking patients to find another one if they do not have faith on it, I feel snubbed. I personally take the notice in bad taste. The problem is the clinic is one of the best in the Valley and the notice stares as a personal affront to the sensitive visitors like me. Needless to say, any person with self-esteem would be reluctant to visit the clinic that challenges people to find a better doctor. But the doctor is one of the best gentlemen I have come across despite the notice.

Some doctors could be plain uncouth lacking badly in social etiquette and communication ability. A doctor once nearly drove me to the edge of my patience by rudely responding to my most civil query about the best medicine to relieve my pain at the earliest. I was shocked by his tone and tenor and lack of empathy and civility. But for my wife’s presence I would have had no problem in inviting him outside the hospital for a verbal duel.

Some patients can be plain uncouth as well. There is no dearth of wild guys who can drive doctors up and around the wall. But the profession, which is perhaps the noblest of them all, require doctors to have tact and skills to deal with the worst monsters of patients. Fine personal behaviour and demeanour will not only enhance their reputation and image but also income and a strong client or patient base. It is largely up to the doctor to help defuse an unpleasant situation and turn it into an opportunity for their own benefit. It is not that a doctor will be able to always save a life, but as long as s/he is sincere, honest, humble and caring, people will realize that s/he has tried their best.

(Editor’s Note: How do you find this article please send your comment at: editor@nepalekhabar.com or editor.nepalekhabar@gmail.com)

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