#SaturdayswithShivani: Doctors- To Deify Them or To Demonise Them?

1st July is National Doctors’ Day in India that commemorates the legendary physician and former West Bengal CM, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy. I’m sure most of us are aware of that; so, I shall refrain from any more details about what a great doctor he was. By now, we’ve scrolled through our friends’ list and forwarded wishes to those who are doctors. There… done and dusted…

No. I don’t think so.

This lip service isn’t enough. Not any longer. Before you get me wrong, let me clarify that I say this not because doctors expect (and quite often deserve) more than words but because we as a nation need more. I hope we all agree that the pandemic hasn’t broken the system but has definitely exposed an already broken one. We can all hear the rusty wheels of the machinery creaking and groaning under pressure. Their spokes are broken and run down and the only thing that’s holding it all in place is the strong will of our dedicated healthcare workers.

We have looked up to them for far too long and it’s time now that we start asking uncomfortable questions from ourselves and the powers to be. High time we seek answers as to what is ailing our healthcare infrastructure. We need to understand what can be done to set it right and how and when that will happen.

I don’t think we can cluck our tongues or shake our heads in disapproval when news channels share images of the deplorable condition of our government hospitals, of patients and their relatives being pushed around or of the obvious paucity of beds and resources. Neither can we conveniently affix the blame on doctors; summarily sweeping the responsibility on them in the name of negligence.

We need to ask how the resources are allocated to the healthcare sector and whether they are enough to cater to the burgeoning numbers that challenge it. Let the corporate health sector grow and let us not stand in the way of enterprise but let that growth not absolve the authorities of the responsibility they have towards the wellbeing of the common man. The corporatisation of health sector cannot be at the cost of government institutions that work tirelessly with a certain purity of intent, if I may say so. I sincerely wish that as responsible citizens we find the courage and the voice to ask pertinent questions till we get answers and more importantly till we see visible and effective changes.

While that happens, I also implore each one of you to introspect and ask what is it that we expect from our doctors. Do we assume that they are superhuman and devoid of emotions? If that’s the case, then what gives us the confidence to abuse and hit them? If Google can diagnose our ailments why do we line up at the doctors’ clinic? Why can we not appreciate and acknowledge the hard work, dedication and skill of our doctors? In the materialistic world that we live in why do we expect the doctors to practice austerity? Why can’t they have the right to earn from their skills and education, like the rest of us? How do we find it so easy to deify doctors and as easily demonise them?

Our healthcare workers have fought bravely in what’s possibly the biggest challenge we shall see in our lifetimes. They have earned the right to ask us to be mindful of them. Please answer these questions in all sincerity and while you are at it may I also suggest that let’s stop putting doctors on a pedestal or worse drag them down from there as is our wont. Let’s keep them human because that’s what they are.

Dr. Shivani Salil

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