Doctor relives the day patient 'chucked' him

When Docs Faced Danger

BY HG HELPS
Editor-at-Large
helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 20, 2019

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Like other health workers, saving and improving lives is among the primary objectives of doctors.

However, over the years they too have come under pressure from people in the society, threatened with violence when things do not go the way of the patients they end up treating, and they feel real fear on other occasions when …

In an ongoing series of interviews conducted with doctors, it emerged that although they display brave faces and put out brave hearts, the medics are often intimidated by scenes and occurrences around them, oftentime affecting their judgement and forcing them to retreat to the confines of their own shelters at their places of employment.

Some of the doctors who spoke to the Jamaica Observer chronicled story after story about how they felt threatened by the very souls whose lives they were assigned to improve or repair.

The system, they claim, often lent itself to abuse from patients, in particular at public health institutions.

Leading the way among hospitals during the interviews was Kingston Public Hospital (KPH), with the Spanish Town Hospital and the Victoria Jubilee Hospital following closely behind.

“The first time I felt threatened was when a relatively young man, who had a colostomy, came to the clinic at the KPH to get medical attention while I was on duty,” one doctor who declined to be identified told the Sunday Observer.

The man had been forced to release faeces through his side in a colostomy bag and seemed desperate to have the situation rectified. However, due to the number of emergency cases popping up, his case was not deemed to be as serious as others, and so he had to wait a while longer.

“He had come to the clinic days to close it, and in those days it (his side), was very challenging. The man's case was an elective one and because there were so many trauma cases coming in, we had days when patients come in for admission when we had to send them home because we had no bed space because of the number of trauma cases.

“This day in question I sent home the man. Pushed me in my chest with both hands and wanted to punch me down and fight me, because he believed that I was fighting against him.

“It was terrifying. I felt that I would have been badly harmed or maybe even killed on the spot. The good thing is that the staff rushed out and blocked him from doing me further harm, and I just left the room because I didn't want an escalation of the violent act that had started,” the then junior doctor stated.

It was revealed during interviews with other doctors that such an incident was not isolated, though only few made it into the public domain.

“Such incidents occur regularly,” the doctor said. “It happened several times, not only with me but with other doctors when patients, especially those who come from far, when they have surgeries to do like, for example, a hernia that is bothering them, among other conditions like haemorrhoids (piles), that cannot be done.

“They believe that you, the doctor, are the cause, and not understanding that it's not you, it's the system that you are forced to work with.

“In the case of the man who pushed me, we had the equipment to do what was required to him, but the amount of emergencies was overwhelming, and we had to postpone him in order to give the emergency cases priority.

“But he thought that I was the one who purposely, intentionally and willfully, didn't want to look after him. So, he took it very personal between me and him, although I had no control over the system,” the doctor said.

Next week: When gunshots fill the air, and the tough task of treating wounded gangsters.


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