Anybody could have done it


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Category: Health Care 21 Jan 07


Dear Minister Rahael,


I once heard you share a wonderful anecdote on the radio that gave an image of a large family of scant resources and a powerful work ethic that made you who you are.


I don’t doubt any of it. You don’t really need this difficult job as health minister, but you give back to the country. I believe you are sincere.


I have my own anecdote for you. A grandfather gave his granddaughter a gold chain on her seventh birthday, with her name engraved on it. She wore it all day long, skipped and ran about.


In the evening it wasn’t around her neck anymore. When her grandfather asked her if she’d lost it, she shrugged. She said the chain “lost itself.” She wasn’t taking any responsibility.


I think of that now as three-year-old Faith Williams died as a result of being administered “too much” anesthesia, and of the administering anesthetist’s defence, which was effectively: “It wasn’t me.


“The machine did it. The bio-med people did it. Anybody could have done it. Somebody was trying to make the health minister look bad. They put a faulty machine there.


“Actually, it found its own way there. We have locked up the bad machine with homicidal tendencies.”


I understand you taking responsibility while the medical board lies low for two years (its time frame).


We all know nothing will come out of that unless it suits the men in white. They are hoping by then we will forget about it. We probably will. Faith Williams’ life is clearly expendable.


The dispute over Williams’ death is not between a negligent doctor and an accountable Medical Board. No, it’s between a bad machine and the vast opaque body called the “state.”


Difficult questions


A machine vs an administration equals nothing. It didn’t happen. If you made the medical professionals accountable, you would have to ask difficult questions.


When was the last time the Medical Board held anybody in their professional accountable? What complaints body has the board set up for patients and their families to go to if their loved one has died or horribly messed up because of negligence?


(As a journalist I have received dozens of letters from bereaved families who were victims of medical negligence and what amounts to extortion, since ill people are the most desperate for care).


Why is the medical profession up in arms at your efforts to regulate them when they haven’t even come up with a code of ethics or bill of rights for patients who should, by right, be handed to every patient who enters a medical facility?


Why isn’t it mandatory for doctors to go for continuing education as it is for doctors in every country with a decent healthcare system?


How can doctors work for the ministry and pass on patients from government hospitals to their own private practice? What criteria do they use to charge patients?


When I asked questions, years back, only the handful of amazing doctors that exist in this country who take their oath seriously supported a code of ethics.


Many saw me as their enemy rather than a reminder of their Hippocratic Oath to care for the ill and the wretched.


Ask yourself questions. You know that the UN’s marker of every developed country is the percentage of GDP they spend on health?


Why are nurses and other health professionals not encouraged to get a degree in their profession? Why is there no discipline or clear line of authority so health workers are held accountable?


For how long minister, will the bad machine be locked up? Does this mean no more children will die?


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur