A nobler battle for doctors


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Category: Health Care Date: 05 May 02

Dr Philip Ayoung-Chee said yesterday, public reaction to the doctors’ protest could have negative implications for doctor/patient relations.


He said: “Since the public decides now to attack doctors, I can assure you that there are no doctors out there who are going to fight for patients’ facilities.”


Ayoung-Chee, president of the San Fernando Hospital Doctors Association, said he will continue to fight for himself and leave patients to battle on their own.

Trinidad Guardian - May 1, 2002


If it’s any consolation to us, there are few doctors who are on the record for fighting for patients’ facilities.


In the last two years, based on dozens of interviews with doctors (who understand their responsibility, their vocation, and are unafraid of scrutiny because they continually educate themselves) frustrated patients, and bereaved victims of doctors carelessness, I wrote a dozen columns on doctor/patient relations.


The following testimonials should throw some light on the reason for ‘negative’ doctor/patient relations as related to me by some of Dr Ayoung-Chee’s peers, and patients of public health care institutions.


Doctor 1  (October 2000)

“The very doctor who puts off your surgery in the hospital will walk across the road to his private practice and if you greet him with a brown paper bag full of money, operate on you right away. There is no regulation to protect patients’ rights. The governing body (The Medical Board Of Trinidad and Tobago) is uncaring to the point of being immoral.”


Doctor 2 (October 2000)

“Our health care system has collapsed. It’s as old as the 19th century and we need to skip a century to even begin to catch up with the rest of the world. The model of treating rather than preventing disease hasn’t worked. The physician as father figure has failed miserably. He does a lousy job of it.”


Doctor 3 (October 2000)

“Many GPs are substandard because there is no system of continuing compulsory medical education for them. They are not kept up to date with the latest drugs and medical information. In the US, doctors have 50 hours of continuing medical education every year, and have to be Board certified every seven years, or else they can’t get their licence renewed. We are operating without a Bill of Rights for the patient, which is why there is so much exploitation of the patient by the medical fraternity.”


Mother of 20-year-old man who died at San Fernando Hospital. August 13 2000:

“My son had an abnormal heartbeat. When he was admitted at the San Fernando Hospital he was suffocating between breaths. I asked for oxygen for my son. The doctor told me my son had to wait. He died an hour later.

“If the duty doctor had read his notes he would have seen he was a high-risk case. The doctor should have put him in intensive care, done a scan, ultrasound.

“When my son couldn’t breathe he should have paid attention to him. He didn’t even try to save him. If he had done what was right, my child would have been alive today.”


Mother of two-year-old baby who died in the Mount Hope Paediatric Unit. August 5 2001:

“I will never forget the image of my baby, in serious distress, unable to breathe, not eating or drinking, bloated, having to wait for seven hours to be admitted to the ward, being told to wait her turn.

“At Mount Hope, even when her lungs were filled with fluid, even after she vomited, they brushed off my complaints.

“Her body was swelling because she was going into septic shock. Nobody suggested a blood transfusion, or removing the fluid from her lungs until she was dying.

“Only when she went deathly white, and the monitor went off, and when both her lungs were gone was she was surrounded by doctors and specialists, taken to the intensive care unit where she died.

“They misdiagnosed and neglected her. I can’t sue them because doctors are not going to testify against doctors and I don’t have several hundred thousand dollars to pay lawyers. I didn’t complain to the Medical Board because they say they have no power to discipline doctors.”


It is interesting to note that RHA and Public Service doctors are so vocal about their salaries, but quiet as mice when it comes to implementing a Doctors Code of Ethics, a Patients Bill of Rights, or a Malpractice Board.


I trust most doctors are aware a truly civilised country is measured by the manner with which it treats most vulnerable citizens (and who more vulnerable than the poor and sick?).


The nobler battle for doctors would be to administer health care with humanity, accountability and excellence and within our limited resources, especially when they get a substantial pay hike, to battle for patients, not against them.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur