Friday, May 21, 2010


‘ A new phase of life. A new beginning and newfound respect.
A noble, rewarding and fulfilling profession.
Treating the sick and giving hope to the ill. And people would give their right arm to be who you are.
You belong to the 3% of our population.
The best of the best. The crème of the crop.
After all, you are a Doctor.’
Isn’t that what we always hear? Well, at least that was what I’ve heard.
One would think it is all peachy. But let me assure you that it is not.
I have been waking up before cockerels crow every day, and barely manage to get enough sleep at night. I sleep less when Mat Rempits come in through the hospital door with broken arms and legs. Still think it’s noble?
I don’t know about you but it is not funny waking up at 3-30 am to treat some reckless teenager high on drugs, with broken bones, nevertheless expecting you to work wonders.
What happened?’
‘Oh nothing la doctor. My friends and I were just hanging out. I drove my bike too fast and skidded on the wet road.’
‘Why were you hanging out at 3 in the morning?’
‘Ala doctor, I cannot sleep.’
‘You better start talking or this suturing is going to be an experience you will never forget.’
‘Okay okay. I was chased by a policeman and I skidded.’
Deprive someone of a goodnight’s sleep and wake him up to treat these teenagers. I guarantee you the horns and the fangs will magically appear on his head and face.
One night I had an uncle with a diabetic foot, with maggots crawling out of his wound. And he came in at 4 am.
you’ve had this for a while, Why come at 4 am uncle? Why didn’t you wait till morning? It’s only 3 hours away.’
‘Truth is I quarrelled with my missus and she wont let me in the house.’
Can you imagine how frustrating it is?
I suppose you feel good when you see them walk again, or when they thank you for caring. Or when they refuse being examined by other doctors and requests only for you.
For the Mat Rempits, you wonder whether they will race again. And whether others will get hurt this time around.
Then you realise that you don’t have the privilege to determine who is right and wrong. Your job is to treat all, the sane and crazy as well as the reckless and the careful.
What a job eh?
To be frank I don’t mind lending a helping hand. But unlike most jobs, we work ‘odd’ hours. At times the hours becomes ‘even’ when it reaches 24 or at times 36 on a stretch.
No human should be treated this way. Even my hamsters get enough sleep. Expecting us to make the right decisions, and to treat patients well while depriving us of sleep and rest is ridiculous if not stupid. And all that for a measly RM100 a night.
Even superheroes need their sleep. You think superman can fly without his sleep?
Doctors are not superheroes. We are a group of confused people trying to make the world a better place. A gathering of people who only want to help their fellow humans.
So why torture us? Aren’t we the good guys?
If only we stop sending people to space, or reviving a multibillion dollar project in Port Klang, we can actually afford to hire all the doctors we want. Or make it more worthwhile for us – monetarily of course.
We’re after all only human.
Every year we plead. And every year we were ignored and told to shut up by the powers that be.
And when we’re tired of using proper channels to air our grievances, and write to the newspapers, we were told to take it and swallow it like a man.
Ironically they are the ones supposedly in charge of our welfare.
I agree that silence is golden. But silence can also burn like an underground fire, and when it surfaces, it is very difficult to extinguish and contain.
To my friends out there, hang tight. This is but just a phase of time. Like everything we’ve been through, this too will pass.
We’ wont forever be houseman, and our bosses wont forever be bosses. And the time will come when everyone will realise that we’re all just another human.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010



The last one and a half years of internship was indeed the toughest, if not the most trying and frustrating times of my life.

Odd working hours, harsh and cruel working environments, non – forgiving and demanding bosses (including patients) were the norm.

As medical students we were all taught and lectured about compassion and patience. And about how a patient doesn’t care about how much we know, but would rather have us care for them. We were thought ethics and the values of what and who constitutes a good doctor.

But working life is a harsh reality from what were thought in medical schools. It is difficult to expect us to be compassionate when little were shown to us. A houseman function not just as a junior doctor, but at times also as a staff nurse, an attendant, a lab technician and most often than not as a counsellor, lending a helping hand and ear to our patients, and at times to our colleagues in need.

Some say that medical ethics were created by those sitting on a higher ground, and intend to create uniformity in regards to doctor – patient interaction. Whilst it makes an interesting subject to learn and debate, it is a different matter all together in real life. In the classroom ethics were thought in vacuum, void of any interruptions and intrusions of politics. But in real life, apart from being a ‘guideline’, it is also our commandment, at times practice as an art, which is mixed and interspersed with politics and complex human personality.

I wrote these articles as a houseman. It was a way out to express my frustration in regards to the various red tapes, bureaucracy, and hypocrisy that has tarnished my profession, and impede my duty and function as a doctor.

The impediment can also be in the form of a humiliation.

There are many graduating doctors every year. But somehow the numbers in government service is still in wanting. A mechanism to plug the leak is therefore necessary. Not to mention a system to weed out those who do not have what it takes to be a doctor in the first place.

We need quality doctors. Not quantity and I assume the Health Ministry is with me on this stand.

Just like we need good doctors, we need good leaders too. We need selfless leaders who work for their constituents and not for themselves. Every day I try to read as many newspapers as I can to feel the nation’s pulse and update myself with the going on in this country.

Most of my friends say they hate politics. The truth is we do not hate politics because our life is immersed in it. We use politics at work, at home, relationships with friends and families but few realise them. What we hate are politicians who patronize our intelligence by bluffing us regarding our state of affairs, and expect us to believe everything they say. We hate the way they control the media and use it as a tool to propagate their agenda at the same time limiting opposing views and sources that they deem a threat to their grip of this nation.

We hate the wastage of funds that was used to bail out so many of failed projects and how family members’ i.e. in laws benefit from them holding office. One was actually declared the youngest unemployed millionaire in Malaysia. He may be very intelligent and smart but ironically, his wealth jumped drastically after his ‘in law’ hold office.

Within these pages, I opined about politics and the state of our country. I couldn’t resist as it is one of my passion. The views expressed are solely mine, of course. But as a note, I don’t think we should all give up on politics simply because politicians demean our intelligence. Instead we should learn and keep abreast on it because this is our country and we’ll inherit it in future. We have to know what is wrong before we can correct it later.

My generation are the future leaders whether we like it or not, and whether we’re ready or not. Given a choice I say we better like it and be ready for it when the time comes.

I dedicate this blog to everyone in and out of the medical field. My writings are mostly circled around the observations I’ve made in life.

To all house officers, I hope you know that you’re not alone in this part of our rewarding career. Hold on tight and I promise you that things will only get better day after day. Understand that this is a learning curve, so learn as much as you can. But do not mistake this as a green light to get bullied. Stand tall and love yourself because no one else will do that for you.

Hold on to all the compassion and ideals you have that made you a doctor in the first place. Use it as a torch to guide you through some of the darkest hours of your career.

Do not let anyone take that torch away.

And to all readers, I hope you’ll catch a small glimpse of what the life of a houseman is all about. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing this blog. Bear in mind that these housemen are the future specialists and consultants that will be looking after your children and grandchildren in their moments of illness and need.

Thank you. Good luck and god speed.