Improve working conditions for polyclinic doctors

PHOTO: Improve working conditions for polyclinic doctors

Polyclinic doctors don't have it easy

I AM the mother of a polyclinic doctor and would like to give a different perspective to Ms Evelyn Ong Foo Chou's letter ("So hard to consult a polyclinic doc"; Tuesday).

After waiting for hours, some patients are likely to be frustrated and angry when they enter the doctor's consultation room. They want to get a consultation worth their wait.

But how do you expect the doctor to give them more "eye-contact time" when he has to document the patient's medical history, conduct the medical examination, reach a diagnosis and write the prescription - all within a matter of minutes - given that he has to fulfil a minimum quota of 60 patients a day?

Some patients express their frustration through anti-social behaviour, such as stealing the doctor's mobile phone, using abusive language when they do not get the prescription or medical certificate they want, or crushing the queue slip and throwing it at the doctor.

Many polyclinic doctors do not even have time for a proper lunch and often eat junk food from the vending machine.

Which doctor would want to work in a polyclinic when locum jobs in the private sector pay three times more, with one-third the patient load?

If there were no bond in place for Singapore's medical graduates, more than half of them would have already left the service.

Letter from Chew Ghim Lian (Ms)

Ms Chew Ghim Lian's letter ("Polyclinic doctors don't have it easy"; last Thursday) made me wonder if polyclinics have measures in place to better protect their doctors.

The doctors are working under pressure, trying to meet the sometimes-unrealistic expectations of the public. That may partly explain why some have left for the private sector.

The Health Ministry and polyclinics have to manage public expectations, especially with regard to waiting times.

Long waits are bound to occur in all clinics - both public and private - and speedy consultations do not equate with quality care.

The polyclinics should also consider extending their operating hours by half an hour or more daily, so doctors have time for a proper lunch break.

Also, are there measures in place to protect their well-being in case the patients turn abusive? Such anti-social behaviour should not go unpunished.

I hope polyclinics can create better working conditions for their doctors, who deserve to be treated with respect by the public.

To beef up their numbers, the ministry must attract more Singaporeans in their final year of medical studies overseas to return and take up jobs in the public health-care sector.

Letter from Ada Chan Siew Foen (Ms)

This article was published on April 15 in The Straits Times.

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