I REFER to the letter “Trauma faced by some housemen in hospitals” (The Star, Dec 8) on the trauma faced by House Officers (HO) at the hands of seemingly sadistic Medical Officers (MO).
I would like to offer a different view of the matter lest the public gets the wrong impression of how medical supervision is practised here and worldwide.
No MO will willingly traumatise a HO unless the former is extremely overworked or the HO is so hopelessly trained that the MO is so exasperated by the inadequacy of medical knowledge and lack of responsibility.
With the current standard of medical graduates coming back, some of whom with dubious medical training in institutions that have been approved through political means, it is not surprising that the MOs are stressed by these incoming HOs.
The extension of a HO after the stipulated period is the decision of the supervising specialist, and he or she has to justify appropriate reasons for extension.
If the performance is still below par after the extension, the HO’s name will be forwarded to the Health Ministry’s director-general to send him to another specialist for supervision.
Nobody likes to extend a HO because of the paperwork that is involved but due to the maintenance of a respectable standard and the future safety of patients whom the HO will be entrusted with, these MOs and specialists have to maintain these standards of care.
The writer has to understand that getting a paper with MBBS or MD is just the beginning of a lifelong journey of training and retraining.
The initial degree should have taught a basic foundation in medical knowledge, ethics and basic practice to allow the HO to function with further supervision for another one to two years and be trained to be a specialist of his or her choice after that.
Without any further training, the MO can become a general practitioner in this country.
If the HO’s performance and knowledge is below par compared to his peers, it will not be fair to let him “loose” to the general public.
This training of HOs occurs all over the world and it is one way of ensuring that the public will be given safe young doctors to treat them in the future.
Ask any supervising specialist in the profession and one hears of the deteriorating standard and responsibility of new incoming HOs.
There are good ones who perform and never write in the newspapers and there are bad ones who complain about working 32 hours at a stretch. They just have to get used to it!
That’s what they signed up when they chose medicine where the patient is paramount to our sleep, food or toilet habits.
I think the writer exaggerated about the predicament of HOs. There is not a trained specialist who has not slept in the operating theatre, patient’s bed, at the table or in the toilet in his lifetime.
A smart HO should get used to sleeping a few hours in between patients and admissions, wherever.
These complaints are nothing new and the HOs just have to get used to working unlike other workers in the workforce as they will have the lives of their ill patients literally in their hands.
The less they complain and the more they learn from these patients and their superiors, the better doctors they would become.