What can and should we demand of Guyana’s regulatory bodies? The prolonged exchange between the Medical Council and the Minister of Health on the matter of Dr Chand, who thought it was acceptable to treat a patient whose head was covered with a bag (shades of the torture reports from the dark days of Latin American dictatorships) has triggered this question.
If the members of the Medical Council were so horrified at this breach of medical practice that they initially recommended suspension of Dr Chand, does this reversal mean that now the publicity has died down the horror has disappeared? Or does the reversal of the first decision mean that the good doctors on the Medical Council are now closing professional ranks to forgive one of their number who is guilty of deeply unprofessional conduct? This would not be the first time. Or does it mean that the Minister is the final and most important arbiter of acceptable professional standards?
Does the Medical Council accept the Minister’s statement that Dr Chand was “damned if he did and damned if he didn’t?” What does that statement even mean? That he acted under instructions that he couldn’t refuse? As far as has been reported the doctor is not a member of the joint services which has rules about chains of command, but even these military people are expected not to follow unlawful orders. The doctor had several options beside the one he chose:
1. Call the Commissioner of Police and report the situation
2. Call the Regional Medical Officer and report the situation
3. Call the Minister of Health and report the situation.
Or did the doctor do one of these three things after treating this tortured child, but to no avail? Is this why he’s damned anyway and deserves forgiveness?
At the same time that we see an expansion of the medical procedures and services available in our public health system, we are also seeing a deterioration of much that should be basic and routine in the provision of health care. Members of the medical profession are literally getting away with murder, and the post mortem medical investigations leave much to be desired. (we recall the coroner’s reports on Sangeeta Persaud and before her, Indramattie Boladass).
Guyanese deserve more accountability from our professional bodies and administrators and we must demand it.
Karen de Souza