Thursday, September 7, 2006

Wussup, doc?

Business Times p.B2
Thursday, September 7, 2006

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Wussup, doc?

Let me talk about a different level of trust.

I just received a distress call from Dr. Joey Lapeña of UP-PGH. He said that they have 25 residency positions in their department every year. This is a four-year program. In previous years they were swamped with applicants for residency slots at the UP-PGH Department of Otorhinolaryngology, as many as 40 applicants for seven positions. They used to have the leisure of choosing the best and the brightest.And this is happening all throughout the UP-PGH system.

They never thought they would suffer from this. After all UP-PGH gives the highest pay among government training programs and, generally, more than what private programs give. Not bad in terms of remuneration that they would get for the amount of and quality of training they could derive from the residency programs at UP-PGH, where they get the greatest number of patients and a variety of cases.

Dr. Joey said, “This year, in fact, we had 12 applicants and six of them UP graduates. They were supposed to report for the pre-residency evaluation where they actually go on duty.

“When the actual day arrived for them to begin, only six showed up. This early, one quit. Only five decided to push through with their application. Where have all the other doctors gone? As we all know, some have decided to take up nursing and we know why.

What worries me about all these is that UP-PGH is the hospital of “last resort”—so-called, in the sense that people who can no longer be treated elsewhere end up at UP-PGH. Of course, some who could afford seek medical care abroad. Those who come to us do so mostly because of financial considerations and partly because of the available expertise. Given that scenario of what is happening to us in terms of the number of applicants it seems UP-PGH might not be immune from the mass immigration/doctor drain infecting our healthcare system. Unfortunately, other smaller hospitals especially in the provinces have closed down or are in the process of doing so because of lack of doctors and nurses.

“Some fields are equally important, like anesthesiology. When the anesthesiologist leaves, what happens to the surgeons, obstetricians and other surgical fields? They can’t do anything.

“What is alarming is that otorhinolaryngology is a high-profile field, a very desirable profession, almost an elite subspecialty; but there are now very few of us here in the Philippines, only 400 board-certified. Yet, there are not enough doctors and the remaining are not interested in our field. In the USA, it’s very difficult to get into otorhinolaryngology.

“Among the top 10 diseases in any age group are a few that require ENT specialists. The World Health Organization lists ear infections among the top five childhood diseases. The other four are diarrhea, fever, respiratory infections and convulsions. Respiratory infections also involve ENT doctors.

The very young and the very old are especially vulnerable and could suffer when we lose our otorhinolaryngologists. They treat everything that could go wrong with the ear, nose, oral cavity, throat, head and neck.

Wussup, doc? Dr. Joey Lapeña and UP-PGH trust that you would heed their call. I trust that you will honor your Hippocratic Oath and serve us, your fellow Filipinos, here.

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