17 February 2019
Doctors are facing mounting pressure of their own with an ever-expanding workload. Photo: Internet
Doctors are facing mounting pressure of their own with an ever-expanding workload. Photo: Internet

Empathetic doctors key to public healthcare system

Any medicine graduate who aspires to become a specialist doctor would have to accumulate certain years of work experience at a public hospital.

The department of psychiatry is an important training ground for all prospective psychiatrists.

Recently, there was a Cantonese film depicting a psychiatric consultation session. In the movie, the attending government specialist is clearly working with fatigue and preoccupied with many other tasks and duties.

The scene might explain why some doctors often seem to listen to their patients without a care in the world.

While such attitude ought to be discouraged, it sadly highlights the problem of an ever-expanding workload, in addition to the doctor’s tough job by nature.

Whenever tragedies related to mentally ill patients happen, Hong Kong’s public mental healthcare system takes the blame as doctors are often deprived of resources, primarily time, to identify high-risk individuals during follow-up consultations.

Complex problems never come unilaterally. Based on my years of experience in the public healthcare system, the personal qualities of medical practitioners could play an indispensable role.

It is understood that those who enrol in medical schools are exam topnotchers. Under the existing education system, for students from the grassroots to attend medical school, it would be possible only if they are extremely bright and diligent.

The majority in medical schools are people with excellent family background, having grown up under favorable conditions. Most medical students have professional parents, and many of them belong to a medical family.

That said, setbacks might be rare in their academic pursuit and failure might be unknown to them.

It is difficult, if not impossible, for many medical practitioners to understand the problems faced by the underprivileged or the minority like the mentally ill. The willingness to empathise with others is a key personal trait psychiatrists need to have. 

I hope that more capable working class students would be able to enrol in medical schools with the help of new education policies and reforms.

In closing, sincerity and empathy are qualities needed from every medical practitioner for the best interest and welfare of patients.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 14

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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FHKAM (Psychiatry)

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