The Catholic Medical Guild of Singapore

The Red Cross Posted on 27th Nov 2011, 10:53pm by Alvin

I arrived in India 2 weeks ago to swap out my partner, who had been here for 4 weeks already. He had a peaceful 4 weeks, he said. And so, with best wishes, he left me to take the next 4 weeks. Into the end of my second week stay here in a foreign country as part of my current job scope, I must say its been an interesting 2 weeks so far.

The people here are helpful and friendly, and I’ve no issues with the food and accommodations. But these past 2 weeks have been busier than I’d expected. When I arrived, I had envisioned that it would be relatively quiet in terms of reporting sick numbers – but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’ve inserted a couple of IV drips, did an auricular block with T&S, and even sent a patient to the hospital for an I&D. Out popped a conjunctivitis case, and I quickly isolated the poor patient into a single room, ala Survivor-Redemption-Island style. The number of phone calls I’ve had to make back to Singapore, be it for pure admin business or medical consult, probably broke the record for the past few years for this particular year’s edition of the trip.

Makes me wonder what’s coming my way for the next 2 weeks.

As I walked back to my bunk late one night – after doing a house visit on a sick GE patient whom I had dripped – my mind wandered aimlessly. I plucked absent-mindedly at the armband on my uniform, taking it off as per usual practice – I had never liked to advertise the fact that I was a medical personnel. Somehow, it seemed to draw a degree of unwanted attention, such as impromptu consults along the road / phone consults / the usual questions on medications / etc.

I stared at the Red Cross insignia, stitched onto a white circular background, which seemed to stare equally back at me. The question of effort and input, not being reciprocated in terms of emotional / physical / monetary rewards, suddenly came to the forefront. Who’s going to care about you putting in the extra effort to do a house call on a patient at night? Its not as if you get profound thanks from the patient / or you get a monetary reward / or you get a rank promotion. Who’s going to remember that this MO was the one who put in the extra effort for his patients? And worked even after duty hours, walking to the patient’s bunk with his MO bag at night? Actually no one does.

Tch. Human beings are interesting creatures. We are unappreciative of the good things around us, take for granted those close to us. We hanker after monetary and small gains. And we are ever quick to point the finger in every other direction; send off an angry email, demanding some kind of compensation / punishment for the smallest complaints.

Stomp’s gotten all abuzz over a doctor who published on his facebook wall, lamenting how his pay was still a “paltry” figure despite 4 years in the service. And that was hot on the heels of a MYOB newspaper article by a reputable medical professional, who literally drove the nail into the coffins of the public hospitals, when he successfully treated the symptoms of his private patient at a private hospital – when the same treatment was offered at the public hospital – except that the family didn’t want it.

Its like opening Pandora’s box. A whole torrent of unspeakable issues which have been previously swept up, stuffed in, and locked away – all coming out. Public VS private hospitals. What is a suitable pay for the medical profession? Is the medical profession a service industry? Is it always an issue of effort and input being equitable to rewards?

Was chatting to a regular serviceman, who expressed surprise that his pay was higher than that of a MO in a hospital. Haha, I’m sure that helped.

Returning to the Red Cross and its flurry of thoughts – I knew what the answer was already. I’m sure every medical doctor out there has come across this question in his medical career. It is a cross-roads for many. Depending on your answer – you stay in the public sector, you leave for the private sector, or you simply just leave to another profession (with better working hours, lifestyle, or simply better salary). Simply put, there isn’t an answer that fits everyone. You have to be convinced with your own answer to move pass this crossroad junction into your path for the next 50 years. So what’s mine?

That I am doing the right thing.

That one line means nothing to the casual observer. To me, it means that God called me to this profession. He has been the guiding hand along this journey. He has called me, to be his healing hand to my patients. And along the way, he has put many friends and family to support me along the way. It doesn’t matter that I’m not driving the latest Audi or that I’m not sporting a Rolex. Neither does it matter that patients don’t say thank you or send me compliment letters.

I have done my best for my patient, and that’s all that matters.

The past 2 weeks may have been busy, but everything’s been within my ability to control and treat. The Lord has given me these opportunities to learn, and He has made sure that I am able to handle all of them. So no matter what comes my way in the next 2 weeks, or even in the next 2 or 20 years, I’m sure the Lord will be with me at every learning opportunity to be a better doctor.

And as I fold the Red Cross Medic Armband into my coverall pocket, a small smile broke out as I headed back to my bunk in the cool night stillness.

One Comment

  1. teresa says:

    May God continue to bless your heart, hands, mind and spirit to be the best doctor He intended you to be. May you carry His healing touch to all whom you encounter.

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