Wednesday, 6 April 2011

When Doctors Become Mercenaries

On Monday morning, I was not feeling well. I had been sneezing a great deal on Sunday, my nose was almost constantly dripping, and the back part of my mouth looked totally red. Following the usual company procedure, I sent a message to the person who takes care of sick leave at work to let him know that I was not going to the office that day. I was not sure whether they would have sent the company doctor and I, therefore, asked my personal doctor to come over for a quick visit.

The company doctor came to visit at around 1pm (just as I was about to start having lunch). She asked me about my condition and I gave her a very short history of my symptoms. She asked me whether I had any fever; when I told her that I did not have a working thermometer, she did not bother to check herself. She then proceeded to tap her fingers against my temples and against my throat, asking whether I felt any pain. I told her that I was not feeling any pain when she did that. I was then asked to open my mouth; she looked inside and informed me that there was no pus in my throat and that whatever I had was due to a virus. I knew that if one is suffering from a viral infection, there is no need to take antibiotics, but I just wanted her to confirm that I was not suffering from a bacterial infection. I asked her whether I needed any antibiotics and I also asked her to confirm whether the Day Nurse capsules that I was taking would be sufficient to treat my illness. She asserted that no antibiotics were necessary and that the Day Nurse pills would be fine together with some warm water with salt. She also advised me to drink much more water since I was dehydrated. According to her, I was suffering from URTI (Upper Respiratory Tract Infection).

My doctor rang the door bell around 10 minutes after she left. When he asked me about her diagnosis, he said that he still wanted to check for himself. When I told him that she did not bother to test whether I had fever, he took out his thermometer in order to check; he tried the thermometer twice and on both occasions, it was clear that I had a relatively high fever. When he looked into my mouth with his torch, he said that I HAD pus and that I was definitely suffering a bacterial infection. He prescribed, at least, one antibiotic product. When I told him about the company doctor's views, he just shook his head and said that such doctors are clearly only interested in sending people back to work as soon as possible. According to him, I was suffering from pharyngitis. He told me that if the company had any doubts about his diagnosis, they could contact him for any further details they required.

A similar story has probably occurred to many other people out there. It could be that several individuals just dismissed the matter as a disagreement between doctors or that they were too scared to challenge the company doctor's views. I have already come across the cases of two individuals who were advised to go back to work following the company doctor's visit. In both cases, the employees had also been seen by their personal doctors and had been certified as genuinely ill. As far as I am concerned, I do not believe that such cases should be taken lightly. Every medical doctor is trained to safeguard the patient's welfare; when a company's interests become more important than the patient's health, there is something seriously wrong.

I believe that whenever a company sends a doctor to check on someone's fitness to work, there is a clear conflict of interest. Such doctors are not being paid by the companies to treat the sick employees, but to send them back to work as soon as possible. If a company doctor allows various employees to spend many days recovering at home, it is very likely that the company director/s will suspect that the doctor is being too generous with the employees.

Why is the government not taking any action to prevent such unethical behaviour? It is my understanding that the government should only support the praiseworthy objectives of the medical profession. It should never allow medical doctors to become mercenaries.

If you have also experienced or witnessed a similar story, please share your observations on this blog...