Of all the people, doctors can’t be the ones adding to our stress
All those who scolded me left, right and centre for not writing the column last week, please note that medical leave is allowed even in the prison camps of Guatemala. Areey, I was down with a terrible bout of viral infection that caused bad cough and cold.
Bekaar mein beemar ko daant diya. Aap dekh lena if Kejriwal comes to power, we may even start getting special cough-leave per month. Anyway, I promised some of you on Twitter that this week, I would recount the stress one faces when one has to visit a doctor.
Especially during the viral infection season, which now lasts twelve months in a year. I toh have a standard line if I see someone unwell, no matter what season or month it is. I make a wise, grim face, shake my head and say ‘Changing-weather hai. You must take special care these days.’ I swear by Mayawati that I don’t know what ‘changing weather’ technically means but people buy this remark with all seriousness any time of the year. Anyway, so here’s what happened when I went under the weather last week. True story, no exaggeration.
Me: I have fever and bad cold since morning. I think I should see a doctor.
Colleague 1: Viral hoga. Antibiotic le lo. Augmentin 625 mg. Do gargles and inhale steam.
Colleague 2: Don’t take such strong medicines. Take ginger and honey and black pepper.
Colleague 3: Homeopathy works like magic in this viral. Hum toh preventive bhi le lete hain. No side effects, you see.
Me (Next morning): The cough has worsened. Let me see a doctor today.
Colleague 1: I know the best physician. It’s a bit crowded at his clinic. Let me know when you’re going, I’d give him a call.
Me: That’s okay. Just give me the number, I’ll fix an appointment.
So I call up at the doc’s clinic and ask for a 6:30 pm appointment
Receptionist: Sorry, 6:30 slot is booked. I can give you 7:18pm.
Me (pleased with the professionalism): Okay, that’s fine.
I reach at 7:10 for my 7:18pm appointment and see at least 40 patients, all at various degrees of distress and coughing at various volumes. I go up to the receptionist.
Me: I have a 7:18pm appointment.
Receptionist (notes down my name): Please wait. The doctor is about to reach from his other clinic.
Me: When will my turn come? I’m on time for my appointment.
Receptionist: When he comes, we’ll start with the patients from the 5:30pm slot first. You are at Number 42.
Me: What’s the point in giving me an appointment for a certain time then?
Receptionist: Yawwwwn. Aap meri TV screen ke aage aa rahe ho. Please sit and wait. Dr saab will reach anytime now.
The good doctor comes in at 7:30, and suddenly the coughing in the waiting lounge becomes louder. Mr Verma and Mr Kapoor, both with the 5:30 appointment are, by then, fighting with the receptionist on who will go inside first. ‘Hum Noida se aaye hain,’ says Verma. ‘Noida koi America hai,’ argues Kapoor. Meanwhile the receptionist calls out for Mrs Malhotra out of turn and sends her inside. Suddenly Verma ji and Kapoor ji are united-in-victimisation and question the receptionist. ‘Woh Dr Saab ko personally jaanti hain. She only has to show her reports,’ the highly irritated, and highly irritating receptionist replies. ‘Isiliye Kejriwal rota hai. Everywhere corruption hai ji,’ Verma ji shakes his head. Finally my turn comes at 9:40pm, and exactly 22 seconds later, I emerge with a prescription that advises: Augmentin 625, do gargles and inhale steam. ‘700 rupees’, the receptionist says. ‘Please give change,’ she adds. “Please change,” I tell her, while dishing out 700 bucks. She doesn’t get the sarcasm.
I don’t really know what calmness tips to give in the situation I described above. By no means can we undermine the importance or value of doctors and the significant role they play in our well being. Having some close friends in the medical profession, I also know the stress and challenges doctors have to face everyday – the biggest one being having to deal with the ‘Internet doctors’ all patients have become these days. We google our symptoms, we google medicine names, we google test reports. This awareness can sometimes be a blessing, but is more often a tool to question a doctor’s advice with cynicism. But that said, the doctors also need to see if the entire experience of visiting them is reducing, or adding stress to their patient’s condition. In this season of manifestos, may I put forward these demands to our doctor friends....
1 Please schedule your day in such a way that you reach your clinics on time. An exceptional emergency is perfectly understandable in your profession, but having a room full of sick people constantly staring at the clock and sighing, everyday, is not.
Please do not take up more patients than you can practically see, and pay attention to, on any given day. I know this means less money, but it also means getting a life. Reaching home at midnight everyday with stacks of cash still means reaching home to family members who are asleep.
2 Please fix a separate time during your day, if possible, for pharmaceutical representatives and influential patients who come with sifarish. To a patient who is in a bad condition and waiting for two hours, it isn’t easy to digest another person cutting the queue and breezing in, just because you wanted to oblige someone. They’ll not say it on your face because yours is a noble profession and you are a life saver, but it hurts the respect that should naturally come for you.
3 Please hire polite and cheerful receptionists. Please.
Sonal Kalra just googled her symptoms and realised that she might be suffering from lymphocercoma of the brain due to changing weather. Please suggest some specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org of facebook.com/sonalkalra13. Follow on Twitter@sonalkalra .