We need to talk about doctor shaming on social media. This month alone, I have seen three separate posts in which a patient’s watcher, presumably a relative, snaps a photo of the involved physician or intern, and then posts the image on Facebook with either a disgruntled remark or an agonizing narrative. The post invariably generates commiseration in the form of likes and comments, only a few of which could be considered constructive, some even bordering on harassment and libel.
Earlier this week, a medical intern’s photo of the emergency department of Philippine General Hospital (PGH) circulated online. It showed the triage area filled to the brim, packed with patients lying on bare metal stretchers, fazed watchers, and not surprisingly, only a handful medical personnel. Because of a change in the start of the academic year, the student workforce had been reduced to a third of its usual number. “Madness. We need help. (Crying emoji)” part of the caption read.
While I sat in front of the TV in the comfort of my apartment as Yolanda (Haiyan) unleashed her fury in Central Visayas, these doctors to the barrios (DTTBs) decided to stay at the forefront instead of going back home when the super typhoon hit their respective municipalities.
Rather than point fingers and waste time ranting on what should have and could have been done, allow me to share the first-hand stories of my colleagues, so that the Filipino medical community and the rest of the nation can focus all effort instead on what can be done right here and right now, to create meaningful impact on the people who have been hardest hit by this catastrophe.
The joy of seeing your post-operative patients follow up in the outpatient clinic, feeling much better than before you operated on them, could not outweigh the helplessness you feel whenever you tell the many others waiting in line for their surgery, “Pasensya na po, wala pa po kaming bakanteng kama. Hindi pa po namin kayo maooperahan. Bumalik na lang po kayo pagkatapos ng dalawang linggo kung hindi pa rin po namin kayo tinatawagan.” (I am sorry but we still do not have a hospital bed for you. We cannot schedule your operation yet. Please come back after two weeks if we have not called you by then.)
It was the day before Valentine's.
I was on the bus home, pondering how I would spend my nth Single Awareness Day (or SAD, as our kind would call it), comforted by the thought of not having to buy overpriced flowers, not having to fall in line just to get the most foreign-sounding box of chocolates, and not having to bother about getting a haircut. Such is the resolve we take. And by “we,” I refer to people who have gotten tired of looking, and instead have contented themselves with waiting.