Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Star: We should not be faulted, say housemen

We should not be faulted, say housemen

Sunday Star,  December 12, 2010, E11

KIM*, a doctor in Pahang saw the early stages of the glut towards the tail end of his (then one-year) housemanship two years ago, while Rozaid* and Mok*, who completed their two-year housemanship last week, were part of the glut.

Turning back the clock, Kim said that he initially thought that the increased number of housemen would be a blessing.

“There were only a few of us (housemen) in Terengganu back in the day and I initially welcomed the increasing numbers as we were overworked,” he said.

With the influx of housemen, senior doctors have sounded the alarm that an overemphasis on numbers could come at the expense of quality.

“Although the number of patients became more manageable for us, the influx of housemen became alarming and even the policy makers were not prepared for it.

“Housemen ended up being sent to the district hospital in Kemaman and I heard that the housemen there were not receiving the best exposure as the chronic cases had to be referred to Hospital Sultanah Nur Zahirah.”

Painting a different picture, Rozaid and Mok said that having more housemen is no guarantee of an easier workload as housemen in big cities or states with few hospitals would still have a lot to do.

Rozaid pointed out that large hospitals had different challenges, and some housemen were sometimes even missing in action.

“My juniors actually had the cheek to tell me that they were enjoying themselves in Pavillion when they were supposed to be on duty,” he said.

Although the trio conceded that inept housemen exist, they are unanimous that the buck stops at the top and housemen, in general, should not be faulted.

They said that the issue of quality among housemen is not a problem by itself, but a symptom of an inadequate system.

“Malaysia’s healthcare system is hierarchical and layered,” said Mok. “Problems exist at multiple levels and the houseman issue is just one of them.

“There is a lot more to address. Yes, problems exist now but we must also question how things escalated to this stage. It could have happened by accident but it could also be due to bad but unintentional design, and I believe it’s a mix of both.”

Rozaid agreed, adding that although Generation-Y housemen may leave much to be desired in terms of work ethic or character, this can be overcome with the correct supervision.

Looking back at his housemanship, Rozaid said that he feels he never got the adequate support from his medical officer.

“He was always very busy and overworked,” he recalled. “It was hard on him and I don’t blame him personally but some housemen took advantage of this.

“Yes, some housemen may have attitude problems but I believe this can be overcome with the right supervision and disciplinary action.”

* Names have been changed.

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