Dear Doc, Are You Qualified?


Thanks to the stupid haze, my entire family is sick. First it was me, followed by my daughter and now it is my son.

Having missed his first day of final exams due to high fever, a bad cough and pounding headaches, I decided it was time for him to get proper medical treatment and possibly be prescribed antibiotics which hopefully would allow him to not miss any more papers.

It was a Saturday, so the clinic was fairly crowded – only God knows why people tend to fall sick on weekends! Having waited for a while without seeing anyone entering or exiting the doctor’s room, I decided to ask if the doctor was in.

“Doktor pergi minum kopi. Sekejap lagi balik,” said the receptionist as she continued labelling some drugs.

I turned to look at the clock hanging on the wall. It was 11.30 a.m. I found the “Doktor pergi minum kopi” pronouncement rather odd. Having frequented this particular clinic for five years at least, I knew for a fact that the doctor was a dedicated medical practitioner.

Finally, a good-looking man dressed in a white shirt and well ironed beige pants with Arabic features walked in. Upon smiling and greeting the patients, he went right into the doctor’s room.

“Hmm…a locum ,” I assumed.

Soon, it was our turn to see the doctor. Seated next to the doctor, my son told him about his cough, flu and fever.

“I am coughing too,” said the doctor as he demonstrated his cough to us. “It is the haze. It is getting bad”.

“Wow. That revelation is worth a Nobel Prize!” I thought, sarcastically.

At that moment, my son had a coughing fit. I could even hear the movement of phlegm in his throat. “Your cough sounds like mine,” said the doctor in response.

My mind was racing. I felt something was amiss since the doctor continued yapping without actually lifting a finger to conduct any sort of medical examination.

Unwilling to waste any more of my time, I decided to help him along. “He had very high fever yesterday, so perhaps….” I hinted.

The doctor appeared to get the hint. My hopes rose and then crashed as I saw him pull out the tiny magnetic strip commonly used to check a toddler’s body temperature and place it on my 16-year-old boy’s forehead.

“No fever. But this is common. Sometimes some people will have fever in the evening and during the day they will be fine,” he pronounced.

Since my son had been down with dengue fever about six months ago, I asked worriedly
“But that is a symptom of dengue fever isn’t it?”

Dr. Nobel Prize winner then responded “I don’t see any rashes so it is okay. I will give you medicine for your cough and flu and some antibiotics too. Don’t take rice. But you can take bread. Don’t take spicy things and cold things,” he offered as he started typing the prescription in slow motion on his PC using one solitary finger.

“Is it a viral infection?” I asked grumpily.

“Yes, yes, yes. Now everyone is having a viral infection. All because of the haze,” he said as he searched for the letter ‘G’ on his keyboard.

“Don’t you want to check his throat and listen to his lungs before prescribing his medication?”

I was getting annoyed at this good looking doctor’s lack of expertise.

“Yes, yes, sure,” he said as he took his green torchlight and stethoscope and began his intensive check-up which lasted less than 10 seconds.

Walking out of the doctor’s room, I went straight to the receptionist to get some information about him and the conversation went like this.

“Nama dia Dr Tahir. Doktor locum,” she said.
“Doktor dari mana?”
“Tak tau la”
“Apa kepakaran dia?”
“Nama penuh…?”
“Tak pasti la..”
“Dari Negara mana?”
“Arab kot”

Aren’t all doctors, including replacement doctors and locums, professionals who are governed by regulatory bodies? Doesn’t having a licence to practise mean doctors must hold qualifications pertinent to their field? Are we wrong in expecting a certain level of professionalism from doctors?

My experience makes me suspicious about the guy in the doctor’s room – was he a certified medical practitioner or was he just a good-looking guy who fancies hanging a stethoscope around his neck?

In most doctor’s offices, we are reassured by the doctor’s credentials hanging on the wall in plain sight. Why should locums be any different? Why aren’t their credentials displayed when they are standing in?

What is the Ministry of Health doing to ensure the quality of services offered by private clinics which are mushrooming all over the place? Who is looking out for the rakyat and investigating if the locums being hired are indeed who they say they are?

I have had too many bad experiences lately that I can’t help but be cynical over the state of our country’s healthcare. Here are a few of my horror stories.

A gynecologist attached to a private hospital in Kuala Lumpur misdiagnosed me for cervical cancer without doing any blood or biopsy tests. And then there was the time when I was rushed into surgery for prolapse of the uterus just a few months after two specialists attached to two different hospitals told me that the post pregnancy discomfort I was feeling was due to emotional distress! And I can’t tell you how many doctors laughed at me when I told them that a particular antibiotic was giving me suicidal nightmares. Some time later I discovered these “suicidal findings” which the doctors laughed off were reported in medical journals.

Makes me wonder ─ the medical profession used to be considered a ‘noble profession’. Is it still so? Or is it now purely business?


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