KT edit: Medicine is a very honourable profession

When hospitals turned into money-making businesses and the dispensation of medical treatment stopped being a calling.



The medical profession often gets a bad name for the corporate priorities that overshadow the efforts of surgeons and doctors to save lives and render succour. The old imagery of the family doctor dropping in to the home and asking the patient to say, aaahh, then prescribing some meds and staying for dinner and a chat are long gone. The change began to occur most vividly when in the early eighties the number crunchers came out in droves from management institutes and took over command of the bottom line.
Profit-oriented medicine became the mantra and doctors were given quotas and targets to ensure that the medical facility stayed in the black. In this accountant run practice, doctors surrendered to keep their jobs and the cycle slowly turned insidious. As more stories of overcharging and stretching the 'tests' astronomically sold through media's hype, the yeoman service done by thousands of hard working and dedicated practitioners was eclipsed by the tales of excess. Profitable medicine is still the norm and this is why the credibility gap between the public it serves and medical fraternity has widened and allowed mistrust to take a foothold when it should actually operate on mutual trust and faith in the skills of that doctor.
When hospitals turned into money-making businesses and the dispensation of medical treatment stopped being a calling, to indict doctors became easy. It was overlooked that they were as much victims as the patients who were being billed beyond their ability to pay. In the US, a survey showed that 94 per cent of bills were inflated and had errors in them. This is probably the average globally in institutionalised medicine and yet the errors in deflated bills or undercharging did not even reach 1 per cent.
So, while making money might have been on the top of the list in the health business, there are still a massive number of medical specialists who put in 18-hour days only to be back in six hours for another gruelling round. Public and subsidised medicine is not an easy place to work and we do more frequently hear of great medical miracles in research and practice. It is indeed unfortunate that the negatives tend to create opinion and the positives are sideswiped and ignored. Perhaps the patient-doctor gap has also been adversely affected by the overcrowding in public hospitals on the one side and the prohibitive costs of private hospitals on the other. This has resulted in a rush job where the bedside manner that was an intrinsic part of the cure has been bruised. Now, it is more impersonal, and the patient is an occupant who needs to be dispatched so the turnover in beds is maintained. But do not let these developments detract from the fact that it is still a very honourable profession with very dedicated men and women doing their best.


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