Physicians or What? [Archives:1999/51/Health]

December 20 1999

Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi,
Managing Editor

The medical profession is one of the most important and well respected professions. It is associated with noble and philanthropic deeds in any human being. In fact, medicine should not really be considered a job but rather a mission. Accordingly, physicians should very noble and kind-hearted people, who will be ready to render help to sick people any time, regardless of their ability to pay.
However, it seems that physicians in Yemen have chosen another way. Most of our doctors are highly motivated by monetary considerations. They have traded away all human principles and ethics. They do not have any compassion in caring for their patients. They do not have any faith in the noble goals of their mission. Man for them is valued by how much he can pay. Having this belief in mind, they deal with their patients in the public hospitals very brutally, and in a way that makes people consider going to such “health” centers to be a nightmarish experience. This is to make people get fed up with public hospitals. If one goes to any public health care institution, the doctor will diagnose him very quickly and then tells him to pay a visit to his own clinic. If it happens that one visits the doctor late in the evening because of an emergency, doctors won’t appear at all. This goes against the noble mission of medicine.
What is so incongruous, almost funny, is that such doctors become so polite and kind-hearted at their clinics or hospitals. They seem to have a new character and hence deal with their patients in a very gentle way. This is one aspect of the dilemma.
Health reports offer a scary picture of the health conditions in Yemen. Diseases of all types are found everywhere in the country. Yemen is granted medicines from different donor countries and philanthropic health organizations. But such medicines seldom reach the poor people who really cannot afford the price of medicine.
In spite of all the miserable conditions of the public health sector, needy people are forced to go to the public hospitals for treatment. But instead of getting cured, they get victimized. Because of the neglect and the absence of accountability in such unqualified doctors, some patients die. They perform many operations that lead to the death or paralyzation of patients. I have heard of many surgeons who perform many operations a day, as if they were in a slaughter house. They are more or less like butchers rather than doctors. Even worse, they sometimes perform operations on parts of one’s body that are still whole and sound. A fairly large number of such cases have been reported. The last case is that of the child Mosa, which was published in the Yemen Times last week.
Sometimes they give you medicine for malaria while you suffer from something else. This is due to misdiagnosis. With the move towards privatization in Yemen, the health sector has not been excluded. Moreover, private hospitals have spread like wildfire all over the country. There must be regulations for such institutions. Their work should be controlled and observed by the Ministry of Health.
Due to the neglect and carelessness on the part of many doctors, people have lost trust in the Yemeni doctors. Therefore, many people go abroad for treatment. A good number of Yemenis travel to Jordan to see doctors there.
I attended a seminar in Amman last month about independent journalism. One of the Jordanian taxi drivers asked me why so many Yemenis come to Jordan for therapy; he was asking whether it was because of our lack to qualified doctors. I thought he might be exaggerating. But on my trip back to Yemen, I found that around 90% of the Yemeni people going back to Yemen came to Jordan for medical treatment. I was stunned when I realized that around 90% of the Yemeni people coming to Jordan from Yemen are sick. I really felt ashamed. A question popped up into my mind then: Do we actually have a ministry of health, and if it exists, what is its main business? Is it not its responsibility to stop the farce of such merciless and inconsiderate doctors? I would like to know whether we have physicians or what!