It’s only been a few months since you have taken over your new duties. As a professional in the public medical system, I can only appreciate how full your plate is. I am writing this letter to you in a bid to expose to you certain realities that people in general, you included, might not be aware of.
We often hear cases across the media about alleged medical negligence, so much so, that as soon as a case is exposed, there is the almost Pavlovian tendency to jump to the conclusion that it must have been caused by the doctor or other medical staff out of sheer negligence. However, few are aware of our working conditions, and even fewer see the human dimension of our work. The aim of this letter is not to garner sympathy but to expose a less-known reality.
Dr. A. G. Jeetoo Hospital, commonly known as Civil hospital, has the second highest number of deliveries per year, after Candos Hospital. There are 30 beds in the obstetrics section, 30 in the gynaecology section. Daily obstetrics and gynaecology clinics treat no less than 100 outpatients per day. These are besides the emergency cases that come in and have to be dealt with. All this is fairly manageable, provided there is the right framework and a good team, willing to work together. But the reality is that 5 specialists are not enough to manage this department. At any given time, there is one doctor missing, either on chain sick leaves or otherwise taken; which means that very often, the department is managed by 3-4 doctors; at present there is only 3. This has a meaningful impact on the type of care that the doctors can give and on the type of care that the patients are entitled to.
Apart from doctors, midwives are also a very important link in the caregiving chain. They are often depicted as harridans who have no compassion, when in fact in a lot of cases their working conditions turn them this way. Case in point: a mother-to-be was in the delivery room last week, ready to give birth. Only glitch: she did not want to push, and this is no first-time mother. It took 11 people, which included midwives and doctors to restrain her for the birth to take place. In the process, the woman giving birth managed to kick a midwife so hard, that the latter suffered from torn ligaments. The current Rs 500 Risk Allowance that midwives receive clearly does not do justice to the effort that they put in the job and the risks that they are exposed to.
Doctors and midwives cannot be expected to give the same type of care at the beginning and at the end of their shifts. The courage is no longer the same by the end of the shift. It is not logical to have the same number of doctors in a hospital where the second largest number of deliveries takes place and in a hospital like Nehru or SSRN, where the number of deliveries is much less. The number of doctors should be proportionate to the number of patients. I therefore appeal to you, in your capacity as Minister for Health, to consider employing more doctors to ensure that patients receive the quality of care that they are entitled to and most importantly, in the four and half years that is left, to review and overhaul the health system, as much as you can.