The SAITM struggle and the search for remedy

Medical doctors have a special place in society. They belong to a profession which is revered, and at times worshipped.

Yes, they are next to God. They should be serene, relaxed and put the patients at ease. Their job is not easy.

They protect lives. Every man and woman would have been at the mercy of a doctor at one point in time.

But since of late, these very doctors and undergraduates seem to callously disregard the patients and their lives taken sides on the roads against the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine, popularly known as SAITM.

The Medical fraternity backed by the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) and the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) launched a strike on Friday (7) against the said private medical institution.

Much has been said and discussed about the SAITM and the controversy surrounding the institute.

But, is SAITM the actual issue, or is it something more? Of course, doctors deal with lives and the institutions that teach the trade should be of sound standard.

Though their concerns pertaining to the standard of education provided at the SAITM could be valid, their resistance to the institution seems to be kind of over the top.

Leave alone SAITM, what about the issues pertaining to the standards of many of the government hospitals? What about the ‘quacks’ who continue to dupe the people and play with their lives? What about medical negligence by doctors who are members of the GMOA, a mere trade union. Where is GMOA’s voice over these transgressions?

There are many other drawbacks in the existing systems to which the likes of the GMOA has turned a blind eye.

The patients do not have a proper referral system in place. They depend on the general practitioner who refers them to other specialists. In addition, registration of pharmaceuticals is also an aspect which needs attention.

Another aspect is the lack of facilities to store patient records, especially at government hospitals. Why not push for these rather than protest for months, wasting their times and depriving another student for an opportunity to study privately?

On the other hand, protesting and engaging in strikes are acts of taking the patients to ransom.

The frequent protests hamper the progress of day-to-day activities when key roads are blocked and commuters are left helpless in the middle of the road.

Their response by means of protests and strikes go against the very values and ethics they stand for.

Patients who are in need of urgent medical assistance are left helpless when these doctors engage in strikes. The shortage of doctors is an added burden on the public who have to wait on queues to make their appointment.

Don’t these doctors want to improve the situation with more doctors coming into the scene?

But at the same time, the government is also partly to blame for not taking a firm stance on the issue. Even now, when the protests have hit an all-time high, the government continues to issue conflicting and confusing statements.

The activities of the students of State universities are affected. The innocent students who enrolled at SAITM are currently facing a blank wall, not sure whether they would achieve their dreams of wearing the white cloak.

Doctors and medical students do have the right to protest, but not at the expense of the patients. It is a hallowed profession, but should not be restricted to those who were lucky to enter State universities.

But, this has dragged long enough. It is high time that a final solution was reached before it becomes a menace to all.

Published in the Nation on April 8, 2017


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