Run For Your Life Doctor!

As I laboured up the stairs on a sultry afternoon, two strapping young men with biceps as huge as tree trunks looked up at me from their chairs and welcomed me with broad smiles. I was almost embarrassed to let them see that I was gasping and sweating after just climbing one set of stairs while they could probably do  a hundred push ups half asleep. We, doctors may not be afraid of blood, may not cringe at the sight of pus or maggots and may take on complicated cases without batting an eyelid but for some reason we will never be called “tough”. I waved back at them and when they did the same their rippling biceps bulged out beneath their T- shirts which for some reason seemed two sizes smaller than they needed to be. In the background were people. Some of them emaciated, some of them obese, men, women and children, young and old, some crying, some screaming and few others not responding at all. While this might look like a scene straight out of the now rapidly mushrooming gyms in your neighbourhood, it is in fact a scene from the ICU in the medical college that I work in. The musclemen are not gym trainers (though they might me in the after-hours) but the ‘bouncers’ hired by our hospital a couple of years ago to protect the hospital and the doctors from violent patient bystanders. This in addition to the regular security staff of the hospital whose only job now it seems is to see that you don’t park the vehicles haphazardly. Yes, gone are the days when ‘bouncers’ were seen only in pubs, not letting stag entries and breaking up bar fights. Now they have moved to hospitals to do the same…. almost the same i.e. here they make sure that bystanders are allowed only in stag entries and not in groups and thereby avoid violence in the wards.

Now they have moved to hospitals to do the same…. almost the same i.e. here they make sure that bystanders are allowed only in stag entries and not in groups and thereby avoid violence in the wards

This is the unfortunate reality of the todays health care system. Hospitals have turned into battle zones where it is not only the patient who is fighting to survive but doctors are combating to save their patients and themselves and the hospital management is engaged in a battle to save their precious expensive equipment from angry, unruly patient party gone wild. When this party goes wild, it leaves a bitter after taste, worse than any medicine available in the market. Gone are the days when doctors were portrayed as Gods (they never were and will never be let us be clear about that). Thanks to people like Aamir Khan, doctors are more like blood and money sucking leeches, except that you pay more for leech therapy in a spa than a doctor’s consultation fee and still complain about the latter.

The recent episode in a civil hospital in Dhule, Maharashtra where a 31-year-old resident orthopaedic surgeon was assaulted upon when he informed the relatives of a patient with head injury that the patient would have to be referred to a higher centre because the hospital didn’t have a neurosurgeon. His reward? He lost vision in one eye, suffered multiple injuries and is now mentally scarred for life. If your Audi breaks down and you take it to your neighbourhood garage where the mechanic has a look and says that it is too big a task for him and advices you to take your vehicle to the company service centre, do you thrash him and vandalise his shop? He is after all trying to help you out. But then you shouldn’t compare the two, not because doctors deal with human beings (that’s what everyone says right?) but for the reason that doctors have always been soft targets. That’s because we neither have the training nor the street smarts to save ourselves when we are put in such situations and most of the time nobody comes to our aid. We are as vulnerable as the Indian batting in seaming conditions. When a judgement passed by High Court is overturned by the Supreme Court (which frequently happens when our superstars and politicians are involved) is the High Court judge assaulted upon? Both had the same evidence and law to rely upon, right? Moreover, medicine isn’t perfect science. Sometimes what doctors intend to do and the outcome isn’t the same. Not all patients respond to treatment in the same way because everybody( read as every body) is different. No doctor treats a patient with an intent to do harm.

AIIMS

Courtesy : The Financial Express

The condition of our healthcare system is evident by the fact that when the doctors went on strike, the entire system broke down. And these were just the duty doctors and post graduates. Which underlines the fact that there is an extreme shortage of doctors and how much the system relies on them. Shortage of doctors is not a doctor’s fault. Lack of equipment is not a doctor’s fault. Inspite of this if a doctor tries to treat a patient and the patient succumbs, it again isn’t the doctors fault. Again, rather than coming to the aid of struggling doctors, the judiciary had the audacity to term the protesting doctors as factory workers when they protested. Doctors didn’t like to be called factory workers because nobody assaults factory workers. They protested in unique ways. Not because we are more intelligent than those mobsters but because we have a High Court so busy that they probably leave less important cases like the ones involving doctors to their interns. But nobody questions their interns if they mess up because after all the mess is against the silly doctors. Doctors in AIIMS were ridiculed for wearing helmets to work. You should be thankful they did it because they are more sensible than the ones who don’t, meet with road traffic accidents and end up on our operation theatre tables and then cause a ruckus, all of which would’ve been avoided if they had worn a bl***y helmet in the first place. Some of them went to work holding swords, some with body guards. They were all ridiculed. What people don’t realise is that they did this just to raise awareness about the situation. Nobody would notice otherwise. No doctor is going to stab someone who is assaulting him because he will only have to treat the victim he stabbed.

Doctors didn’t like to be called factory workers because nobody assaults factory workers.

Let’s be honest. All doctors are not saints. Because if we were, then we wouldn’t be called Gods, we would be called  …err Saints. Just like in every field there are some unscrupulous ones amongst us to and I am not talking only about the surgeons who throw surgical instruments angrily in OT theatres (too many trade secrets being revealed here!). If priests and religious leaders can turn out to be corrupt so can doctors. Some of them perform unwanted procedures, some of them prescribe expensive drugs just because they have tie ups with pharmaceutical companies. And these doctors should be severely dealt with……. Legally. No matter what, IT IS JUST NOT RIGHT FOR ANY DOCTOR TO BECOME A VICTIM OF VIOLENCE! Just like a politician, an engineer, a banker, manual labourer we have families too. We have our responsibilities too. Many a time we sacrifice these responsibilities just to attend to patients because it has been ingrained into our psyche while we are studying medicine. So, while most of you wouldn’t understand why a doctor would wake up in the middle of the night to attend to a patient or miss birthdays of their close ones for the same, we do. The trials a doctor must undergo has been discussed enough everywhere and I won’t bore anyone with the same.

 No matter what, IT IS JUST NOT RIGHT FOR ANY DOCTOR TO BECOME A VICTIM OF VIOLENCE!

All this violence and legal hassles only pollutes the practise further because to avoid confrontations and litigation, even honest doctors ask for unnecessary investigations to be on the safer side just to avoid their names being dragged into unwanted complications. Let’s be honest, these days we feel like jawans going to war rather than treating patients. And we aren’t even trained to defend ourselves unlike the jawans. Are you afraid to walk alone in the dark? Whether you have a son or daughter, brother or sister, would you allow them to be alone in a dangerous place. Imagine doctors have to live with the same fear in a hospital? You don’t know when an accident victim turns into an assault. We don’t mind facing an abusive drunken patient any time of the day. We are strong enough to take verbal abuse but not physical assaults. We are not strong enough because whatever strength we had has been used up studying to become a doctor.

Before I round it all up, I want to say something. Many a times when a doctor talks about the difficulties that he faces, there are insensitive people who ask, “why did you take up medicine then?”. The answer to that is because we didn’t ever dream that we would become victims of assault. We don’t mind the struggle because it is what defines a doctor. Nobody ever thinks that something bad will happen to them. It’s always someone else. There are so many divorces these days, but still people in love want to get married because they think they are different. It’s the same with doctors too. Doctors give up their youth, forego sleep, sacrifice their family lives. Don’t praise them for that, but don’t hurt them for that too lest you end up discouraging a bright young soul from taking up medicine in future. Sometimes you wonder that looking at the current situation maybe its safer to give up the profession, turn to the gym, build up muscles, become a bouncer and then take up a job in hospitals to protect doctors.

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