Private doctors’ role in our society
THE word doctor sounds good when someone is ill. Not money, but the very thought of going to see the doctor at their clinic helps alleviate suffering. The profession of a doctor is highly respected one.
Some consider the status of a doctor greatest, next to that of God. It was due to the exaltation of the position of a doctor that Almighty Allah made Jesus Christ (Hazrat Essa) a doctor.
It is not that people are not aware of the significance of the availability of doctors. Yet this significance has gained more credence after the emergence of the Corona virus.
During the first wave of the virus, doctors and paramedic staff were the only people to fight it on the frontline.
At that time when people were given guidelines to stay at home, the doctors along with other paramedic staff were working round the clock to ensure the safety and well-being of the public.
They remained away from their families for weeks and months. As many as 200 doctors succumbed to the virus after contracting it while performing their duty.
As the profession of doctors is important, there are also some duties and responsibilities lying on them.
Doctors need to be kind, caring, compassionate and considerate. It is their moral duty to properly guide and advise all patients, especially the poor.
However, the general image, that the public seems to have, of private doctors is very disappointing.
Speaking from personal experience, I hear common people saying that doctors have become cruel. They equate doctors with Ka’ssais (butchers) and money-making machines.
This is not to say that all doctors are like that. But occasionally careless attitude of a few doctors contributed to the creation this kind of image in the minds of the public.
From my personal experience and my talks with people who frequently go to hospitals, a few things have emerged which the public faces very often.
These are: the hefty fee, insufficient time and care given during check-up, use of brand names of medicines instead of formula etc.
The public healthcare delivered by the government is in such a dismal condition that people avoid going to government hospitals. The number of people who go to these hospitals are very low.
In addition to the dismal condition of the public health care system, the feeling of mistrust among the public is also another leading factor behind people’s not using public health system.
As the public health sector is widely known for its shortcomings in catering to the needs of masses at large, it would be irrelevant here to discuss it any more.
Thus whenever a patient’s family can afford the expenses, they choose private healthcare over public healthcare.
They opt for private doctors where they face a number of issues. Doctors charge them hefty fee.
It is another thing as to what drives doctors to charge such expensive fee. However, the poor suffer a lot.
The rich or well-off people can pay the consultation fee of well-known specialists, while the poor terribly fail to pay it.
Hence, it remains nothing but a dream of the poor to have a check-up by a leading doctor/specialist. Money comes between the doctor and the health of the poor.
Besides hefty fee, there is another common issue which almost every patient or patient’s attendant complains of: doctors do not pay due attention. Again this is not a sweeping statement.
There are some doctors who pay due attention while checking-up. However, due to the large number of patients that a doctor has to see within a short period of time, he/she hurriedly checks up the patient and prescribes medicine after knowing few symptoms without going into the details of what caused it.
Doctors, these days, try to address the symptoms, not the causes. This kind of attitude can have severe, negative impact on the health of patients. The approach should be holistic.
Furthermore, the use of brand names instead of formula is another issue that the public is facing.
Several thousand people have voiced their concerns regarding this, but unfortunately, there is little response on the side of doctors. The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) also felt that the concern merits consideration.
DRAP issued directions to the health departments to make sure that medical practitioners use generic formulae instead of writing brand names in prescriptions.
This might not mean much to doctors, but for the public it carries significant importance. This adds to the economic burden on already poor masses.
It is worth noting that “medicines of the same formula are being sold for prices 10 times higher than the original rate”.
Moreover, there are some doctors who do not take the trouble of telling people that a particular case is beyond the area of speciality.
They seem afraid of telling that point-blank. There has become a general tendency among them to prescribe medicines even when they are unable to diagnose the issue.
As has been said earlier, they just try to address the symptoms, which is a very improper thing for a doctor to do.
The profession of a doctor is considered noble. It is not next to any other profession in dignity as this profession is responsible for saving lives.
Therefore, doctors need to be helpful, kind, caring and compassionate. More than any thing else, they need to be frank. They should live up to the expectations of the general public.
—The writer is a contributing columnist, based in Larkana, Sindh.