MEDICAL PROFESSION: Most house officers want more training
MUCH has been written recently regarding training of house officers in Malaysia. Suddenly, politicians and the general public have become "experts" in this field of training.
Some have even quoted employment legislation to support and consolidate their argument.
I applaud Dr Andre Das, who wrote regarding house officers training and clearly stated that medical decisions and training should best be left to the technocrats and professionals, and not the public and the politicians. ("Housemen: Experiential learning vital" -- NST Jan 16).
I am a young specialist working in one of our general hospitals. I was trained locally and as a house officer, I am trying to comprehend how this issue got out of hand.
I pity the current house officers. What will happen when you complete your training in a such substandard environment? Being mollycoddled is not going to make you a safe and competent doctor. Can you be responsible for your actions? Are you going to complain then? It will be too late.
It is always best for clinical and medical decisions to be made by practicing clinicians.
This system of training has been around for years. Neighbouring countries, which are more developed than us, have stricter and longer work hours compared with our current system of "flexi hours".
Are their house officers dropping dead due to exhaustion or other sinister causes? The current batch of senior doctors have undergone training, which was far more stressful, but they remain well with no signs of depression (and continue to work longer hours compared with the house officers).
Is it all right for us to work long hours while our house officers receive preferential treatment?
Some sensible and passionate house officers continue to work way past their scheduled hours to help ease the burden of their colleagues. The majority of house officers love their job. The majority take great pleasure in serving their patients. The majority find their training inadequate now.
As in other professions, we have our bad apples as well and these individuals have benefited greatly from this system. Punching out from work has never felt this good for them. We should not generalise the vast majority for the faults of a select few.
The house officers in my hospital are suffering and some are unable to go on planned vacation as this system gives them two days off per week but fails to take into consideration vacations longer than that (especially in hospitals where house officers are in short supply as this may leave two house officers in charge of an entire ward of 40 patients).
I shudder to think what will happen if the next complaint from a house officer is about his or her cancelled vacation to Phuket or Bali.
It is always difficult for parents (mine included) to see their children working hard and being away for long hours. Sadly, this is the business called medicine. You should have never encouraged your children to become doctors if you want them to work like office clerks.
We are here to serve the people and deal with lives on a daily basis. We can't achieve this if work is done on a fixed schedule. No disease or ailment comes with an "appointment".
You will only understand this if you deal with human suffering on a daily basis.
The general public should realise that the very essence of the training is to provide quality and safe healthcare to the public. These are the very people who are going to treat your children and parents in near future.
To those who have been criticising our training system, have you ever stopped and wondered whom this actually benefits?
Many house officers have approached me and mentioned that they much prefer the previous "on call" system. They felt more competent as they were doing and learning much more.
Certain hospitals still lack sufficient house officers to implement the guidelines on housemen training by the Health Ministry and have resorted to adjusting the hours to suit their practical needs.
These hospitals are now receiving public bashing in the press.
I appeal to the general public and politicians. Please let us do our job. You are making it impossible for us to work and care for our patients.
Finally I quote Dr Andre Das, "I must salute the specialist and medical officers who are much fewer in number compared with housemen. They are the true professionals and they are the ones bearing the responsibility for the housemen on top of their main duty: taking care of patients."