I RECENTLY returned to Malaysia after a long stint as a practising doctor overseas. I am currently a medical officer in a government hospital.
I have seen this “mistreatment” first-hand. I have had housemen confide in me, one saying that he felt “choked”, another asked if he should request for a transfer and another exclaimed that he may not be suited for the medical field.
Since the pressure to perform is of utmost importance when it comes to patient care, the slightest of errors carry a huge burden for the doctor involved.
In Malaysia, the housemen are made to draw blood daily, do ECGs and administer antibiotics. There are no phlebotomy services and there is a lack of trust in nurses who would normally administer drugs.
Housemen are then quizzed on various subspecialty disorders during the morning rounds and denigrated in front of everyone should they fail to answer.
Public humiliation is a part of remedial work and teaching in the Malaysian health sector.
The more senior doctors are unable to rationalise the situation as they too were a part of the system.
The hierarchial system in Malaysian society is also partly to blame. It is almost taboo to refer to a person with a conferred title by their birth name. And it is disrespectful to address an older person by their given name. But it is a cultural norm for employers to subdue employees or those in position of power to ridicule their subordinates.
Likewise, housemen refer to MOs as “doctor” though they have similar paper qualifications.
Our moral book taught us to respect our elders. Perhaps, it is time we learn to respect everyone irrespective of age, sex, title, position, creed or caste.