Doctors should serve the public in a professional manner

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 January, 2001, 12:00am

I recently took my infant daughter to see a doctor in his crowded Mongkok surgery after she developed a cough over the course of a few days.

After a long wait (more than 1.5 hours), my daughter was given a cursory examination lasting about three to four minutes. The doctor diagnosed bronchitis and prescribed four different medicines (a powerful antibiotic, cough syrup, nose drops and a bottle on which the handwritten label was unintelligible). At $200 per visit the reason for the brief patient interview was obvious. My wife was somewhat overwhelmed with the size of the prescription and took my daughter to another much less crowded surgery for a second opinion. In sharp contrast to the treatment by the first doctor, the second doctor provided a lengthy interview, thorough examination, answered my wife's questions fully and, interestingly, said there was no need at all for any of the medicines prescribed by the first doctor save the nose drops. He noted with concern the prescription of a powerful antibiotic in what he described as a clear case of influenza - a viral infection for which antibiotics are of no use.

The first surgery we attended was run like a factory. The doctor's assistant had her hand on the door handle throughout the interview waiting to usher us out so that the next patient could be seen. The variation in quality between the service provided by doctors in Hong Kong seems to span an enormous range. Doctors are professionals and have an obligation to serve the (paying) public in a professional manner. Cursory treatment of what are perceived to be trivial complaints is the sign of complacency. This can lead to incorrect diagnoses, inadequate information being passed to the patient and inappropriate treatment.

A recent report found that Hong Kong has the world's highest rate of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Is it any wonder, when they are dispensed in minutes after the most rudimentary patient examination? If doctors in private practice complain of being overworked, they should impose a strict quota on how many appointments can be made in a working day.

In the first surgery, our names were taken and we were told to wait until the doctor was ready. This turned into a wasteful and tedious experience.

There was no indication of how many other patients were in front of us. The lack of information and co-ordination was risible.

How difficult or expensive would it be to introduce a fixed-time appointment system or ticketing machine seen in other types of offices? I estimate that the doctor in Mongkok probably saw 100 patients that particular day.

At a minimum charge of $200 that is $20,000 per day.

There is no excuse, save greed and lack of motivation, why better facilities are not provided.

In addition, what are the regulations governing dispensing of medicines with legible labels? Surely nowadays medicines can be dispensed in all surgeries with computer-printed labels. Or would this cost too much?