Ashraf’s Column

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pet Kata Bibek -On our doctors

To: Mr. Abid Rahman
Copy to: Mr. Nayyemul Islam Khan
Editor, The Daily Amader Shomoy.

Dear Mr. Abid Rahman,

I write this letter to thank you for your well written and thought provoking write up on the present day Bangladeshi medical practitioners ("Pet Kata Bibek") published in the Daily Amader Shomoy on March 08, 2010. You have very rightly and precisely painted the picture of various malpractices committed by most of our doctors. Like many of my compatriots I consider these doctors as one of the most corrupt professional groups among the highly educated ones in our society. You have mentioned most of their major corrupt practices in your write up. From my personal experience I would like to add three more. Firstly, most of our doctors do not keep themselves abreast with the latest developments in their respective fields of knowledge. In this age of Internet communication it is so easy and convenient to keep track of developments taking place in any branch of science and technology including medical science. But where is the time for our doctors to study and update their professional knowledge? They earn so much of money with their outdated and rusted knowledge. Why should they care to waste (?) time on further study ? Secondly, in the recent past under compulsive circumstances I had to go to medical practitioners in India, Singapore and the US for the treatment of my wife and myself. Leave aside the best possible treatment and courtesy we received from the doctors there, every time I made a payment to each of them I was given a proper money receipt without asking for it. I do not know if any private medical practitioner does so in Bangladesh. Thirdly, we are not aware of any case wherein a medical practitioner was punished by the BMDC (Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council) or by a court of law for committing malpractice, professional misconduct, negligence of duty or bribery.

To overcome the above mentioned three serious problems the following actions need to to be taken: a. BMDC should not issue licence to a medical practitioner for life to practice. It should issue the licencefor five years only. After every five years a medical practitioner should be made to undertake a professional test by the BMDC before his/her licence is renewed for another term of five years. This practice will compel all our doctors, young and old, to spend at least some time of the day or week for professional studies. b. It should be mandatory by law for a medical practitioner to issue a proper money receipt to every client for the money s/he receives for services rendered in his/her private capacity. This will help income tax authorities to keep a track of the huge personal income the doctors make. c. Presently BMDC or the courts of law cannot, as they claim, take actions against recalcitrant doctors due to lack of legal provisions. All relevant laws, rules and regulations must be updated so that appropriate legal actions can be taken against a wrongdoing medical practitioner. All non professional organisations like SCP, DAB etc should be banned by law. Only Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) should be allowed to function strictly as a professional organisation of the medical practitioners. d. Young students who study medicine in government medical colleges should be reminded by their teachers that the medical colleges are established and run by the money paid by the poor tax payers of Bangladesh. They should be motivated to serve the people. For that the teachers have to be patriotic and professionally honest first. It is only the government by passing necessary laws in the parliament and issuing executive orders can ensure the accountability of the medical practitioners. But unfortunately, on being guided by their ill motives to cheat our people unabashedly, our medical practitioners, by and large, have so far been successful in refraining all our governments of the past and the present from passing such laws and executive orders. Leaving aside their professional matters our doctors are now more busy in doing raw politics. Both the two major political parties AL and BNP have been giving indulgence to our doctors in this regard. AL is patronising Swadhinota Chikitshok Parishod (SCP) and BNP is patronizing Doctors' Association of Bangladesh (DAB). (I understand Jamat-I-Islami has also floated its own medical front.) It is because of this pampering by the top political leaders the doctors are totally spoilt. It is never the doctors who decisively vote the politicians to power. Rather, the doctors are a very microscopic cross section of our population. Because of their lack of acceptability in the society they do not and cannot have any political influence upon our voters. It is not understood why our top politicians always give such indulgence to the greedy doctors. Even in the present government of AL there is a cabinet minister, a state minister and an advisor with cabinet status in the ministry of health who all are medical practitioners and SCP leaders. Does the prime minister really need three doctors to run this ministry ? If yes, then she should send home all her non technical ministers from ministries like communication, shipping, works, livestock, environment etc and replace them with technical people having academic degrees in the relevant subjects. To give leadership at a political level, as our ministers are required to do, one need not be a professional expert. Instead, one should be a good politician to feel the pulse and problems of the people. The rest is done by the technical experts in the relevant ministry. Doctors as a professional group has been having a joy ride on the shoulders of our politicians at the cost of the interest of our people. This anti people practice must be brought to an end. Doctors must be disciplined. For that our top political leaders must take all necessary actions including enactment of laws. As long as that does not happen the people of Bangladesh will continue to be exploited by their own doctors. It may not be out of place to state here that it is not only the politicians, our media have also been not doing enough to eradicate this national malady. In the past I sometimes wrote to some English newspapers on the subject. In most cases the editors found it wise not publish anything that went against the doctors. Others edited my writings before publication in such a manner that the doctors did not feel offended.

The media people also need to come out of their present shyness to expose the weaknesses in this sector. Here I must thank Mr. Nayeemul Islam Khan for taking initiative in this regard by publishing your present write up. He has certainly shown enough guts in doing so. I am also sending a copy of this letter to him for his kind information. I do agree that there are some very dedicated doctors in our country. Generally we do not know their names as they are not active members of SCP or DAB , and they do not care for cheap popularity. We always salute them. But the fact remains that a few white dots, however bright they may be, cannot make a blackboard white. I would have certainly been happier if I could write this letter to you in our mother tongue Bengali. I cannot do so for two reasons. Firstly, presently I do not have the software necessary to write in Bengali. Secondly, my Bengali is very poor. I wish I could have a strong pen like you. I would request you to kindly write more and more on this subject to initiate a popular movement so that our politicians are compelled to pay heed to it. I am sure more media giants like Mr. Nayeemul Islam Khan will come forward to join the movement.

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