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30 Nov 2022, Edition - 2696, Wednesday

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Why doctors are poor patients Do doctors take care of their health?

Umaima Shafiq


This debate has come up after Dr B Palanisamy, assistant surgeon at the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital (CMCH) collapsed and died of a heart attack while on duty.

Dr Ramesh Raja, a diabetes surgeon at a private clinic in Sai Baba Colony told The Covai Post, “Doctors are very poor patients, I don’t know the reason, but we never follow the advice we give our patients. We don’t eat, sleep or exercise on time. For instance, if we have a surgery scheduled for 7 pm, we have to be in hospital by 3 pm, and meals get delayed.”

People’s high expectations and a super-human tag attached to doctors make their life stressful, says Dr Raja.

Doctors are also humans, and work-related stress sometimes drives them to “resort to anti-depressant drugs, alcohol and substance abuse as remedies. Many also become suicidal.”

“The recent consumer issues are disturbing, and taken a toll on our health. Earlier if I asked patients to take CT scans or other medical tests, they obey, but now they ask questions. Suppose they do take tests and the results are negative, they accuse us of wasting their time and money. On the other hand, if some other affliction is diagnosed later, they take us to court for not recommending the tests. They won’t accept any apology in case of accidental errors, and behave boorishly, he said.

“The Indian doctor patient ratio of 1:10,000 is inhuman.”

Dr Krishnan Swaminathan, a consultant endocrinologist at KMCH, Coimbatore advises doctors to compartmentalise their work days. He tells The Covai Post, “Doctors are overworked in India, often working nearly 18 hours every day through the week besides taking nearly 30 phone calls through the night. They have no time to spend with their families and never take leave fearing loss of pay and loss of patients.”

He said doctors in the USA and the UK are given paid leave for three weeks every six months.

“I follow that and advise my colleagues to do the same. Besides there is no such thing as one doctor one patient. Group practice and rotating schedules should be brought in. Here that system is only in corporate hospitals. Doctors should also reduce the number of patients they attend to during weekends to spend time with their families. Paramedical staff should be trained to attend to the patients. KMCH has many vacancies for such posts, even nurses. For instance, I have two specialist nurses to handle patients when I am absent.”

He also advises doctors to do health check-ups and exercise. “Of course, work is an occupational hazard, but you must know when to stop. Please remember that family and recreation are as important as patients. So make time for them also,” he says.

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