‘There are times when we wish a patient should die’

SRINAGAR: Qaiser, a first-year post-graduate doctor, recalls his first day on the job:
“It was a Sunday, the day when patient care is almost entirely in the hands of young doctors and there is no senior doctor around.
The white apron and the nameplate announcing my designation stitched on it made me feel proud and excited. But the excitement soon turned into panic when I saw a huge rush of patients in the casualty.
The white apron made me feel excited, and Badge over it which pronounced my designation made me feel proud. But the excitement soon changed into nervousness, when I saw a huge rush of patients in causality.
I could say I was treating patients on mere guesses because there was no one to guide me. I prescribed antacid to a patient who had heatstroke.
I couldn’t sleep that night. But gradually I got used to the system. I wasn’t held accountable for what I now realise was bad diagnoses.
In hospitals, passing the buck is what you learn quickly in your post-graduation years. The consultants shift the blame onto registrars and registrars pass the buck to post-graduate doctors who in turn flog the most docile of the horses: the first-year PG doctor.
It’s a chain you cannot escape. And those who question the system are failed by their seniors in examinations. We fear failure so we accept slavery.”
Qaiser’s monologue is the story of every first-year PG doctor, who say that 36-hour shifts, and 16 night shifts a month, sap their energies.
“I came on Saturday and it is Monday I have not gone home. I am so tired that I cannot even talk properly to the patients not to talk of treating them properly,” said Yaqoob (all doctors this reporter to say they should be quoted by their first name).
“We too need rest. We work night shifts every alternate day. Our lives have been disturbed. Many PGs have sought psychiatric help,” he added.
“I am waiting for the day when I will enter second year of my PG and shift the burden on juniors. That will be very mean of my but I will only be passing on what I have inherited,” Yaqoob said.
What does the PGs complaints mean for patients?
“There have been many days when I knew that a patient will collapse if I don’t treat him promptly but I would delay treatment so that I could have lunch because I am a human being. The schedule kills you and then you hardly care about patients,” said Ali, a first-year PG.
“There are times when we wish that a critical patient should die to escape attending to him for long periods. If you are beginning to judge us, don’t, blame the system,” he added.
“Most registrars you get patients who have serious ailments and you call registrar on duty for help, they mostly don’t pick up your phone call”. And then you experiment with the patients.
Medical superintendent, Nazir choudhary says, “This is the stage where these doctors have to learn. Every doctor who has earned fame today has gone through this phase.”
The PG doctors know the response of their higher up’s, which is why they never complain, and carry on.