Editor's Comment

No room for hostility

MINISTER of Health Jonas Chanda yesterday restated a long-standing complaint against some medical personnel in public health facilities – hostility to patients.
We know that doctors and nurses are humans too and may lose their temper due to misbehaviour of some patients and their caregivers.
This is more so that many public health workers are overwhelmed by their workload and sometimes they have to put in double shifts with much compensation.
But they have to understand that theirs is a noble profession and they chose it with a conscience to serve and save humanity.
That is why health workers are expected to be professional and stick to the promise they made of saving human life.
Doctors are guided by the Hippocratic Oath, one of the oldest binding documents in history. Written in antiquity, its principles are held sacred by doctors to this day: treat the sick to the best of one’s ability, preserve a patient’s privacy, teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation, and so on.
Nurses on the other hand look up to Florence Nightingale, famous for being the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ who organised the nursing of sick and wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Florence Nightingale’s far-sighted ideas and reforms have influenced the very nature of modern health care.
Her greatest achievement was to transform nursing into a respectable profession for women, and in 1860, she established the first professional training school for nurses, the Nightingale Training School at St. Thomas’ Hospital.
Therefore, health workers are there to not just give medicine but to also offer psychosocial counselling to patients and their caregivers.
In fact, the smiles and care from health care staff are far more healing than the actual medicine. Patients need hope more than anything else and look up to the people assigned to them for encouragement.
In private health facilities, patients receive utmost care because they are valued and obviously because the managers of these hospitals do not tolerate any misconduct.
In public health facilities, it is different because some health care workers vent their frustrations on patients. Sometimes nurses engage in war of words with either patients or their caregivers.
Little wonder there have been incidents of caregivers beating nurses and sometimes doctors when it is believed that their patients are not receiving the care they deserve.
In fact, some patients and their caregivers are now afraid to speak with the medical staff to express their opinions. This should not be so.
Doctors and nurses should never scare or intimidate patients and caregivers and should instead embrace their clients and hear them out.
There is a belief that medics in government health facilities have an ‘I don’t care attitude’ because their salary is guaranteed, whether they treat patients nicely or not.
Evidently, there are some health care staff who are in a wrong profession. They just don’t have the passion for the jobs they are honoured with and paid for. Such workers should be shown the door at the earliest possible time.
Even when overwhelmed, they should not let their frustrations affect their efforts to do their best.
There are always channels through which they can table their work-related challenges. Venting anger on patients is not one of those channels.
In fact, many patients and caregivers are not unreasonable. They do see the environment in which they are served and they appreciate the tough conditions in which some medics work. So they do make undue demands.
Some patients and their home caregivers even know the shifts of the warm medics and those that are just terrible at their job. They accordingly decide on when to make visits to the health centres.
This shouldn’t be so. One should seek and get treatment as soon as it is required. Delaying in doing so just because there is a hostile medic on duty could worsen one’s health condition.
That said, there are many medics who truly live up to their calling. We, like the public, do not have any qualms with them. We salute and encourage them to continue being the good examples that they are.
The issue is with those that are in the wrong profession. If they can’t be realigned to what is expected of them, please let them leave, one way or another.

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