The problem has less to do with our doctors and more with corruption in our health sector
Like many other Bangladeshis, I have been extremely critical of our medical professionals, especially doctors. I can admit that my criticism is often harsher than others.
This might be due to the fact that I spent a significant portion of my life as a reporter in Bangladesh. A typical reporter, especially in developing countries, is critical about everything, is cynical, and has a tendency to complain about everything.
In recent times, however, I have been self-critical that I was among the list of the reporters suffering from cynicism.
And a good portion of my cynicism was related to our medical professionals because they affected me a lot. In fact, my career as a reporter or a writer started with writing letters to newspapers about how bad our doctors are.
This is due to my bitter experience in hospitals when my youngest sister had surgery after a major accident.
Every Bangladeshi who is critical of our doctors has bitter experiences. You can find plenty of them if you spend some time at tea stalls or hospitals and their cafeteria.
However, there are also some positive experiences which highlight the generosity of some of our doctors. Especially during this pandemic, some of our doctors have shown us how courageous and generous they are.
And I feel that we do not share enough positive experiences regarding our medical professionals.
It is not an easy task for doctors and other medical professionals to treat patients in the midst of this pandemic, risking their lives. It is even harder in a country like Bangladesh where the state machinery and government and private medical administration are least concerned about the safety of medical professionals and concerned more about profit-making in the purchase of medical equipment even in a situation like this.
We have read stories about how a strong corrupt syndicate became the decision maker regarding purchases made in health administration. Media outlets have also published and telecasted reports of how low-quality masks (in N95 packing) were delivered to hospitals across the country. We have also read reports about an ailing doctor who got infected by Covid-19 while treating at a government hospital but was denied helicopter service when his condition was critical. He eventually died.
The result of this mismanagement is that Bangladesh is now the top country in the world in terms of medical doctor infections. In April, the Bangladesh Doctors’ Foundation claimed that, in terms of Covid-19 infections among medical doctors, Bangladesh is at the top of the list.
Despite the risks and mismanagement of health administration, doctors and other medical professionals in the country continue treating patients. Although there have been some incidents when patients died because of a lack of treatment in hospitals, our medical professionals have continued to treat patients, braving the risks of getting infected by Covid-19.
A photograph published in a national daily went viral among Bangladeshi social media users. The photograph showed a tired doctor collapsing with disappointment when a patient dies despite his sincere attempts to save his life.
I have a personal experience about the generosity of a Bangladeshi doctor to share. A professor at a private medical college helped me a lot when my parents fell ill during the pandemic and lockdown.
He prescribed medicine for my parents over the phone and through emails and Whatsapp. When my father needed to be admitted to the hospital, the professor treated him at the medical college.
This was a huge relief for us. I heard that he continued treating patients in the last few months. Recently, he himself was infected by Covid-19. What surprises me is that he continued to give advice to some serious patients while he himself was admitted to a hospital for Covid-related complexities.
While we are overly critical about our medical professionals, we often do not ask questions about the corruption, mismanagement, and inefficiency of our health sector and the governmental and non-governmental medical administrative bodies. Many Bangladeshi doctors in the West have great reputations as medical professionals. The same doctor becomes different professionally and as human beings in a different setting.
The problem must be with our health care system and corrupt administration. If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it is that our health administration and bankrupt politics are responsible for the poor health care facilities in the country.
Mushfique Wadud is a journalist currently pursuing his PhD in journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder in the United States.