Patience wearing thin

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

THE EVENTS on the weekend, when a private medical worker was accused of breaching professional standards, presents us with a study in contrasts.

It seems a private hospital has done what the statutory Medical Board could not: it has taken prompt and efficient action in relation to concerns about professional standards.

Mere hours after the issue arose, a cardiac technologist in the employ of the West Shore Private Hospital at Cocorite was suspended pending an investigation into claims he divulged information about a patient on his social media account.

The Prime Minister was hospitalised at the same facility, but in truth, such a breach would be unacceptable no matter who was involved or where it occurred.

However, it is instructive to contrast the prompt action of West Shore with that of the Medical Board in relation to multiple complaints about racist statements made by a doctor last year.

Last November, the board, to its credit, issued a press release strongly condemning racism by medical practitioners in the wake of a viral video clip showing a doctor making a bigoted rant.

Yet, although the board opened an “investigation” into Dr Avinash Sawh, it declined to suspend him pending that course of action, even as it suggested he might ultimately face sanction for “infamous and disgraceful” conduct. What the board is “investigating” is unclear. On November 11, Dr Sawh issued a full and unequivocal apology in public.

“I am manning up and accepting full responsibility for the hurt I have caused,” the doctor said of his racist rant back then. “Such statements, upon mature reflection, have no place in a cosmopolitan society.”

However, in Dr Sawh’s case, “manning up,” “accepting responsibility” and “mature reflection” soon transformed into righteous indignation at the purported bias of the board that dared to hold him to account.

The doctor reportedly issued a100-page explanation and, with the aid of remarkable legal sophistry, now positions himself as a martyr in the case, lobbying against the “tainted” actions of a regulatory board.

Chief among his objections? Paperwork: his lawyers say complaints against him, including one from the Minister of Health, were not written on the right forms. Where is the Medical Board letterhead, they ask.

The board is a statutory body set up by Parliament to protect the public by disciplining doctors. In theory, this oversight mechanism applies equally to all medical practitioners.

The system is clearly sick. After three months, all signs of life in relation to the board’s “probe” have flatlined. We are left with a situation in which a doctor has been left unsanctioned over facts not even he disputes, while a relatively junior technician has already faced consequences. Different strokes for different folks.

Lives may not be at stake in this particular instance, but respect for the Medical Board is in critical condition and the prognosis is poor.

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"Patience wearing thin"

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