Part of what I do as an In-House physician in the hemodialysis center where I work is to review the patient’s list of medications and if needed, refill prescriptions for the said medicines, as we often limit them to a month’s worth as they may have to be changed later based on their response to the said medications. One time, the husband of a patient came to me asking if I could make three identical copies of his wife’s prescription. When I asked why, he reasoned that he was going to ask three different entities, namely, the City Health Service of the City of Angeles, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Office of the Governor, for the said medicines. Further reasoning that if all three gave him, he would have at least been assured of 3 months worth of meds, if not, he will just buy them instead. I pause and give a short sigh, but remember having read this letter from a woman who experienced prejudice firsthand, I would think twice before passing judgment.
Going back to the said letter, I was drawn to another website where it was also featured not to the article itself but the commentaries of the people who have read it. Some of them pointed out that true, there may be people who are actually in need of this kind of aid from the government, there are still those who abuse these kinds of things as well. Government aid, they argued, can be a bane or a boon depending on how we look at it and from whose perspective. Given the ongoing talks about misused funds and taxpayers money, I heave yet another sigh.
I remember when I was still a Junior Intern (or Clinical Clerk as they are known in some other institutions) during my rotation at the Out Patient Services, Charity Division of the hospital my then OPD resident told me to assist a patient to the Social Services office prior to their admission. The patient was a male in his early 20’s and with him was his father. Based on the planned surgery, he would be needing titanium plates and these would cost money of course. The question would be: will the hospital shoulder some or all of the medical expenses, given that this was a charity case. At the Social Service office he was asked routine questions about their family and the patient: Where they lived, source of income, etc. I was there so I know for a fact that the father claimed that he had no stable source of income, when lucky he would ply the streets as a tricycle driver. That they were living with relatives in Manila just for the time until the surgery can be done. He presented some documents for scrutiny, and after several minutes had his admission stamped with “class D” – meaning he was from the lower income bracket and was indeed qualified to avail of the hospital’s charity services.
So what has the above story connect with the first? It was only later when I went to see how the patient was doing when I accidentally overheard the father of the patient talking to another relative in the ward. He said, or rather boasting, that he wasn’t really poor at all, that they had just been from Hong Kong the month before, and that he just wanted to save the money he would have otherwise spent on the titanium plates had they known his real status in life. We have to be wise about these things he said with a laugh. I cringed. We all have been fooled, the people who just wanted to help, by some people who deliberately choose to deceive and get the upper hand.
What is disheartening most about this is not the fact that part of what was used to pay this particular patient’s hospital expenses came from our tuition fee as medical students, but that the same treatment could have been given to someone who actually did deserve and needed it. This happened several years ago, but with today’s current issues at hand foremost the circus that is the pork barrel scam still to find a resolution, I choose to abide by the oath that I have taken as a physician, and rather than be a critic, to just do what it is we hope to do best: to be a healer to the sick and afflicted no matter their race, creed or stature in life and hopefully in our own little way, be a catalyst for the change that we yearn for.