I was watching the Guinness Book of World Record yesterday and one of the amazing feats that they showed was the first successful Craniopagus separation of conjoined twins Vilija and Vatalija Tamulevicius. The procedure was carried out by a Russian surgeon who specializes in brain surgery and later, the reconstruction of their skulls was done by an American surgeon. As I was watching this programme I could not help but feel tremendous admiration for these doctors. They are the Robin Hood and Gulliver’s of modern day world. They fight intricate battles that require skill, presence of mind and oodles of experience.
And then it dawned on me suddenly that had these guys been Indians, they would not stand a chance getting a medical seat let alone acquire the level of expertise they have now. Their skills and aptitude for the profession would be ignored. They would have to buy that seat or be a Reserved Caste person or be lucky to clear the entrance exam from among the multitudes. Their talents would be lost to the world because being a doctor is just another job in this country. And because it is just another job, just about everybody wants to be a doctor. And in this melee many people genuinely interested in being doctors and treating people are lost.
This is not a rant about Reservation. If there are people in the reserved category who can make good doctors then more power to them. I for one frankly don’t care whether my doc is high caste or low caste. When it comes to my health I want someone who knows what he is doing and is sincere about helping me. But let’s face it, when I go to a doctor today all I see is an individual who was lucky to get that seat while the doctor regards me as just another consultation fee and if he is business savvy then more money by sending patients to cooperative labs and hospitals for unnecessary medical tests and caesareans. It is an unhealthy vicious cycle.
How many of us will here go to an unknown doctor without enquiring about him or being referred by someone who trusts him? He is an MBBS and is registered under IMA. Then why do we hesitate? Because we are not certain about the doctor and his intentions or his antecedents. Because have heard horror stories of doctors who overcharge or kill or maim their patients. We do not trust a doctor implicitly. Ironic isn’t it that a man who has cleared his exams and is a certified doctor has to pass another test i.e. the trust of the people? If the selection of medical students was fair and based on merit and aptitude then all of us would blindly trust anyone with a Dr. prefixed to his name.
The fact that I am sitting here in good health and typing this post hoodwinking my boss into thinking that I am writing a brochure is because there is a Doctor Mathew who makes sure of that. A man who is perhaps more qualified to be a doctor than most of his brethren because ‘medicine’ is not a mere profession for him and the crowd that throng his clinic is testimony to that fact. His consultation charge was only Rs 10/- till protests by patients like me made him revise it rather apologetically to Rs. 20/- for people who can pay. For the poor he gives free medicine or charges a token fee. The result? He gets a plethora of patients with all kinds of problems that an upmarket physician will never see in his lifetime gaining him experience and expertise far beyond what most doctors will get in their entire lifetimes.
Another doctor nearby, sits swatting flies because he charges Rs 50 for consultation alone because of the word MD after his name. Guess who makes more money? Guess who takes his profession as a calling and who takes it as a mere money spinner?
Ask those doctors joining Call Centers by the drove where they failed. They will give you many reasons but if they were to only act as doctors and not business men by taking a genuine interest in their patients and lowering their consultation fees, maybe, just maybe they could have survived as GP’s. But most of these gentlemen are in a hurry to make money and end up frustrated when that doesn’t happen. Today doctors who have climbed down their high horses and charge lower consultation fees are doing well. Because there are patients out there, enough for every doctor to make a decent living that is if they are willing to be satisfied with a decent living.
But then you cannot blame them entirely can you? He joined this profession because it was a job and not because medicine excited him or the thought of alleviating people’s suffering moved him.