Watching the evening news on Catastrophic TV, Shelton Perera the proprietor of the Wallside Restaurant and Bar nearly jumped out of his favourite chair. “This is preposterous, listen to this news piece,” he called out to his wife Joy cooking something in her customised pantry. “I am busy, Shelley, besides I am not interested in local news; they give me migraine headaches. You can tell me about it as a bedtime story.” Shelton grimaced as he imagined a knowing smirk on his wife’s face. Joy always said that the local news was no news at all, just stuff that filled ‘news time’. Shelton shared her views, but this one regarding yet another ‘doctor demand’ took the cake.
Doc demands in school admissions
A poker faced TV announcer was reading the news. “Doctors in some of the biggest hospitals in the country went on strike today because the educational authorities had not admitted their children to schools close to their work stations as promised. Their action resulted in thousands of patients, many from distant places not being able to get medical attention. Demanding that their children are admitted to recognised schools doctors tussled with the police and security officers to charge through the gates of the Education Ministry to perform a ‘satyagraha’ they promised to continue until their issue was solved. It all ended when the protesting docs were forced out of the premises. When Catastrophic TV interviewed the minister regarding the issue he said that it was agreed to admit doctors’ children to the nearest government school to the hospital where the doctors worked, and that there was no problem in its implementation. But, the doctors were not happy; they wanted their children admitted to popular and prestigious schools like Loyal, Nandani Balika, Ahisaka College, President’s College, Science and Arts College, Raj Central, High School and a few others in Colombo and other cities. The minister also said the government has abided by the rules in school admissions common to everybody and that there was no possibility of giving doctors’ children special privileges simply because they were doctors’ children. He added to say that he had received hundreds of applications from several persons holding high office in government and in the professions for special consideration in admissions. ‘But rules are rules and they apply to everybody; admissions will be made according to them. The yahapalana government promised impartiality and this is one of the examples of how it is being implemented...’, the minister said,”
Political balm that stings
“That’s what I call the application of political balm that stings a bit. I watched the minister on TV; and he was damn right. But then politiccas are full of tricks and twists,” meowed Tommo a pussycat sprawled on the tiled floor of Shelton Perera’s house. In routine daytime slumber his companion and working partner, at Wallside, Ooty an owl, comfortable on the arm of a chair hooted, “It’s no big deal; that’s how the game goes isn’t it? At the same time, many of our governors’ doctors seem to think they are of a godly breed deserving special poojas. But it’s well known that their interests are in self-service and putting up runs on their score boards. When you consider their demands and strikes in the past and in more recent days they are a hellish crowd who don’t deserve to be called docs.”
“Meeooww, and don’t forget their mess ups called medical misadventures. Sure, the majority of those calamities don’t make the news; medicos and their chums make sure that justice was done for the docs; never for the patients. Can you remember the ordeal I went through? (Pussy underwent a prostate gland operation that was unnecessary. In fact he wasn’t sure he had one. But the doc who poked around said it was so infected the only way to survive was to get it out. ‘It is a must’ the doc had said. Pussy had no choice.)
“Thuhooot! Boy; and the amount of flying I did to collect money to pay the damn hospital bill!”
The GMOA- Gold Mining Opportunists’ Assembly
“Purrshsh. In addition to that partnership, docs going on strike for days and days putting patients and the government in a bloody fix is standard practice. Caring docs, healers, regarded as gods by the poor don’t strike. But how many of such docs are around these days? The majority of docs are pro-GMOA and their attitude is ‘we demand and get pay hikes, special perks, promotions, scholarships, transfers, duty free cars, private practice and whatever that concerns us; if we don’t, we strike until we get them; down with Hippocrates and to hell with the patients.
“What’s this GMOA?”
“It’s a docs’ trade union some governors call the Gold Mining Opportunists’ Assembly,” laughed the owl. “The name fits perfectly. Now its members are demanding preferential school admissions for their children. The doc union is also fingering in the country’s governance. They cultivated that habit during the Sataka regime which cuddled the GMOA and gave them privileges outside the law. What’s so special about docs, to allow that, huh? Are other pros like engineers, lawyers, architects, professors, surveyors, masons, carpenters and school teachers lesser mortals with lesser rights than docs? No government is under obligation to docs who were trained in medicine at the expense of each and every one of our governors. My question is why can’t the government do something about the never ending problems with docs? For instance it can declare medical service an essential one and fire docs who disregard it. The government must flex its muscles and do some doc-bashing on behalf of the suffering sick held to ransom by docs running loose,” purred pussy hitting a nail that needed hammering into the wood.
“Ahhh, this situ is a result of free education,” hooted the bird. “In most countries, education is free up to ‘A’ levels or whatever. But university education, especially in medicine is hellishly expensive. Parents obtain loans and students take part-time jobs to meet costs. But our doc students get it free and so easily that they forget the hands that fed them no sooner the cap and gown ceremonies and group photos are done with. Whooooom, and it’s well known that medical practice, the medicine–making industry and private hospitals are massive industries making money off the sick and dying. How low can anyone get?”
The Viva Voce
“Ha, I remembered something. My papa once told me that he wanted to be a doctor but couldn’t. He had passed his ‘A’ levels and qualified to enter university to become a doc. But the method of admission was different then. If you were to study medicine, you have to face a viva.”
“Pursh, a what?
“Aahhhh, a viva voce is an interview to ensure that the student birds selected for medicine are not deaf, dumb, don’t stammer, and have qualities to become good doctors. That means a face-to-face chat designed to see whether the birds were from honorable breeds, had good values, suitable personalities and a genuine interest in the noble profession of medicine; not gold diggers planning to use doctoring as a tool to amass money. And I tell you that screening process worked. But today anyone, even a jail bird carrying ‘row and strike’ genes who makes the required marks can enter universities to study medicine.”
“So…?” prompted pussy.
“So…, apart for a mere handfuls here and there, today’s docs don’t have the qualities of yester-year docs. Instead our governors are saddled with miners armed with alvangoes, mammoties and shovels of dicey quality acquired from various corners of the world to go prospecting in lands of the sick. ”
“True, true, by the way, how come your pa wasn’t chosen for medicine?”
“It had been unfortunate. At the viva it had transpired that his papa; that is my grandpa was a politician who had seen the insides of a jail a couple of times. To make matters worse when asked why he wanted to be a doctor, he had said: to earn a lot of money.”