A Doctor’s Perspective

Aug 10th, 2011 | By | Category: Latest, Pakistan

I am a doctor by profession; I took my five year training at a private university hospital in Karachi, with an adequate amount of clinical exposure. I opted for public setting to work because I already had some experience of electives in the government hospitals, and I loved the experience. I particularly enjoyed being thoroughly involved with the patients, from the time of deciding on their admission in the Emergency Room (ER)/Out Patient Department (OPD), guiding them to the ward, helping them get hold of a ‘feasible’ bed – with a working fan and light, and if lucky enough, a functioning socket as well, monitoring and recording their vitals, sampling them, catheterizing and NG tubing the patient if needed, (Yes! In our government hospitals, this all is the doctor’s job) doing the necessary counseling, briefing them about the nature of their illness in the most-comprehendible language for them, be it pseudo-Sindhi, -Punjabi or –Pashto, explaining to them after each ward round what the ‘barra’ doctor said about them, all in addition to the routine history, examination and treatment. You may even find yourself answering their queries about the neighboring beds patients. At the end of the day, it’s one of their innocent concerns about you, or their sweet compliments, which make your day. This all was a very new experience for me, the patient being thankful for as little as listening to him attentively. Nothing warms you up more than a patient inquiring specifically for you at the clinics or wards.

All was going very smoothly, that some protests started settling in, affecting the work and ultimately the patients. I will be honest, it wasn’t as bad most days as the media showed, but it was bad enough that the doctor was being involved in something going against patient benefit.  The term ‘doctors on strike’ surprised me. How can doctors be on strike! What happened to the oath of always putting patient benefit above yours, and offering treatment to all, at all times, without any discrimination. A patient, who you have told at the time of relieving from the hospital, to follow up for his treatment in the OPD, comes to you compliantly- when compliance is already a trait very rare in our patients -and you tell him you can’t see him because of some protest. Or even worse, you don’t show up at all! Although knowing that the cause of your protest has nothing to do with the patients you are choosing to turn down.

They say that when they ‘call’ the strike, it was aired on electronic and print media, so it won’t harm the patients much. Little do they know that the population they cater to may not afford ‘generated’ electricity, or newspaper.

Spend ten minutes outside the main gate of any public hospital, and you’ll know what I mean. I have actually seen patients un-able to walk, getting themselves to the hospital, in public buses, getting down with the help of their relatives. There are many old ones who do not even have anyone accompanying them. The bus driver only sometimes is nice enough to stop the bus for them to get down, at others he just slows it down for a minute or half. They are risking whatever remains of health they have left, only to be seen by some doctors, who may not even be there.

If you were one of them, what would you go through if you were refused to be seen at the public hospital after getting there after undergoing great mental, physical and emotional stress? Taking you further, what if you cannot go to any other hospital, because of, if not financial, but time constraint, what will your heart and mind go through? Now think of all the times when you have, directly or indirectly done this to others and that you will be accountable before God for it, or held responsible for the loss you have caused.

Even more saddening was that just because most of our beloved are unbothered by these strikes, a lot of the doctors who were not really supporting the protests, were conveniently following them! Well, who minds some extra money and a few days off the hectic schedule?

Why should the nurses not raise voice for their ‘professional rights’ if doctors are doing so… As it happens, this stirred a wave of unrest at all levels. A lot of patients deteriorated because there was very limited oxygen coming in to the wards, as the oxygen cylinder supply depends on the nursing attendants, who were conveniently protesting. The medicine and equipment supply also was affected for the same reason. The emergency laboratory would function, but what about investigations other than the very primary ones that it offers.  A basic liver function test costs Rs.690/- at the nearest charity-based private hospital. How can you ask a patient to get it done who has only a thousand or so for his entire hospital stay?

Coming to the facts, I admit the doctors are being over worked and under-paid, also the amount of time and resources it takes to produce a doctor is much more than any other professional. But, at the same time, we all know that it has always been like this. Doctors have to work hard, first to become a doctor, later to survive. These are ground facts. Then too, if anyone chooses to be a doctor, that means they are indirectly agreeing to the given conditions. So then they can’t really complain.

Reminding that you are one of the most highly educated, thoroughly trained personnel of the society, you shouldn’t simply follow the recently set trends of destructive protests. To me, if it’s about protesting only, then instead of protesting by refusing to run the hospitals, what seems more reasonable is to gather at the press club, or chief minister or governor house in groups after duty hours and get your message through. A professional way of going about it is to write to the concerned authorities, meet them and discuss your problems. You could also demand for a reduction in work-hours, and have a daily 8 hour shift of different timings instead of alternating 12-30 hour shifts on night calls. The time doctors save from here, maybe utilized in working elsewhere, running your own clinics, giving tuitions, etc. It will not exactly make the doctors prosperous, but it will certainly improve the financial situation to an extent.

So dear brothers and sisters in profession, it’s all over now, thankfully, but next time, God forbid if you ever come across such a situation again, please show some concern for the patients you want to treat. It’s not some extra humanity, but only the necessary humanity I’m asking you to exhibit. Don’t choose to let your patients deteriorate. The worldly benefits you may get will leave you with nothing but heavy hearts.

Shaazia Faiz

About the author

The author is a doctor from a leading private medical school and postgraduate trainee in a government hospital based in Karachi

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  1. Shazia, this is a wonderful article. And I must say your excellent character needs to be applauded for mashaAllah.

    Did we not all come to Medicine with the sole purpose of helping the community, changing the lives of the unprivileged or something along those lines? Atleast that is what almost all of us say in our charismatic resumes or interviews. Are we so blinded by the list for money that we will eat our own words and put the patients at risk to fulfill our, albeit right, demands?

    We were trained to save a life and that is what we should continue to do. You have very rightly said, nothing but heavy hearts are a consequence of running after worldly benefits.

  2. Thanks Annie. We really need to change our pattern of thinking and reconsider our priorities as doctors.

  3. this is all true and i condemn the type of protest where patients has to suffer, even if doctors are asking for basic rights, there are other ways to do it, other than keeping patients hostage…… but, yes there is a but here, yesternight, police raided services hospital to arrest on call doctors….the doctors who were still working in ER n Wards, not conveniently having fun… many of my friends ran through the back doors to save themselves…. as a result of torture 5 doctors ended up with broken bones, 2 broken legs and one as per latest news is in critical condition on vent…belime i condemn the turn this protest has taken till yester night. but now its just too late to step back…

  4. First of all need to evaluate few things! Doctors are appointed as BPS-17 and are paid Rs. 40,000 and at the end of 2 years program they get increment of up to 20,000 (Rs. 60,000). The demands were that doctors should be appointed as BPS-18 (bit unusual because no one directly hired at BPS-18 unless you are a son of some so called or pay to get on this position). How many doctors wanted to serve in Pakistan? I have so many doctor friends and all of them wanted to abroad!! (sounds like materialistic rather than a noble profession). I’m a businessman and I love doctors and recently Dr. Farooq Rana (Gold Medalist – Assistant Professor) became my friend. He can get everything good pay, earn millions, but he is focusing on serving mankind.

    You guys are educated and you will get more, but everything is on the right time not by protesting? What is the difference between educated and non-educated people? If we start running after materialistic desires, then I think we should open a butcher shop and start earning. I think doctors can earn more than what they are demanding, after 3 or 4 years (FCPS1 and 2, USMLE so many options). Do not destroy the image of doctors with due respect from my doctor friends…

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