Toying with lives

medicalerrorsWhen lives are lost in an airplane disaster, questions arise and remedial solutions are sought. In contrast, many deaths in healthcare are never scrutinised and mistakes are repeated.

Medical training is not consistent and standards are not clear. In Malaysia, medical graduates are from diverse training backgrounds. Many of them even enter medical schools with dubious qualifications. Some medical schools are not satisfactorily equipped and examination standards are suspect.

It should have rung alarm bells when medical graduates, now called doctors, cannot perform simple bedside procedures or explain the pathophysiology of a common illness like asthma. Unfortunately the gravity of the situation is ignored. Economics has become a more important element than human lives.

The prevalence of medical errors is unknown but is not likely to be uncommon. From the poorly trained doctors to a lack of supervision of more junior officers, lives are likely being lost as a result of mismanagement. Quiet conversations with many concerned doctors will reveal personal stories of witnessing wrong medical decisions. What is horrifying is that nothing much is done about it.

There is a saying that one cannot become a good doctor without killing any patients. Learning from experience by trial and error would be the best teacher, it seems. Perhaps this mentality has led to the medical fraternity trivialising death. Even medical errors are accepted as part of this learning process.

There is an urgent need to improve medical training. Stricter admission criteria must be enforced and not compromised by warped policies. The teaching faculties should be well staffed and standards must be continually monitored by an independent body. Medical schools should never operate with the bare minimum of resources as this will result in poor training and incompetent graduates. Greater funding must be channeled to medical education. Hospital administrators must uphold high clinical standards of practice by ensuring regular audits and focusing on enhancing the skills of its human resource through continuing medical education programmes.

The situation is critical as the healthcare system is being flooded by incompetence , ignorance and ineptitude.

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