My name is Pearl. I am a second-generation general practitioner (GP). It was the year 2020, date 18th March, time 8:30am. I drove out alone to my clinic through road blocks and deserted roads. It felt like an apocalyptic end-of-times movie. I was driving to work despite the danger of the pandemic.
This is what I was brought up to do. Service before self.
My dad was a country GP who started his practice back in 1969. Mum was trained as a “Sister” who managed government hospital wards and became the “clinic manager”.
I grew up around and in the clinic, and like any other Chinese family business then, our home was just above the clinic, Leong Dispensary, in Bahau, Negeri Sembilan. Officially, the clinic was open from 9am till 5pm on Monday to Friday, and half-day on Saturday.
However, patients and their families would come at all hours of the day and night, weekdays and weekends.
There was no such time as time off as my dad and mum were always available, either at the front or back door of the clinic (and sometimes even through the shared air-well from the neighbours).
Some even stayed in our guest rooms for days for dad needed to observe them, as there was no hospital in my town. House calls were done. Dad would visit the sick and the very old at their home after work and on days off.
Dad and Mum looked after everyone in the town. Doctors were the family physicians from womb to tomb. Medical issues were nipped in the bud before they could fully bloom into a raging problem.
The doctor was part and parcel of their families and work. There was a sacred relationship between the doctor and the patient.
During my dad’s time, there was no middleman, no managed care organisation (MCO). The patient paid the doctor directly and the doctor was answerable to the patient and thier family directly.
The doctor was not answerable to any third party.
Nowadays, most patients are under MCOs, where there are no more personal relationships between the patient and doctor. The doctor spends more time doing reports for the MCO, rather than with the patient.
Doctors are only trained in the practice of medicine, not the business of medicine. Doctors did the right thing because it was the right thing.
In short, doctors are patient-oriented. However, MCOs are businesses and like most business, it is profit-oriented. Therefore, there are conflicts of interest between profit-driven MCOs and patient care.
To harm, never. To cure, sometimes. To relieve, often. To comfort, always.
Pearl Leong, MBBS (Australia).
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.