Medical profession in Manipur: Humanitarian service or job security?

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Sanjoy Akoijam

First of all, before I begin this article, I would like to pay my respects to everyone in our State of Manipur who is engaged in the noble profession of Medicine. I thank you for all the countless lives you have saved and for all the smiles that you have brought to the faces of dozens of people in our land, cutting across all age groups. I thank you all for the sacrifices that you have made, personally and emotionally for the well-being of those who are under your care.

The medical profession has been in human society since time immemorial. In fact, it is one of the most noble practices, if not the most noble, that a person can choose to follow. Farmers give us our food, workers toil day and night to keep the machinery of human civilization going, teachers impart invaluable knowledge, leaders, either political or spiritual, guide us with their impeccable gifted or acquired skills. But all of them need to keep good health in order to discharge their respective duties. As the old saying goes – “If health is lost, everything is lost”. This is where a doctor steps in. He is available round the clock to treat people when they are struck down by illness and to make sure that they take the necessary precautions to keep themselves free of any ailment.

In Manipur however, there has been a worrying trend and it is becoming more prominent day by day. Many students, my own peers, decide to pursue further studies in the field of Medicine after completing their higher secondary studies. However, on close analysis, only about a small percentage of them are keenly interested in the field of Medicine. In my opinion, the moment you decide to become a doctor, you should accept the fact that it is not an easy task. You should be ready to spend sleepless nights, you should be ready to see all kinds of people with various ailments and most importantly you must have an unwavering commitment to serve the sick and those in need and you must be ready especially to face anything, come what may, for the welfare of those who are under your care.

The present trend in Manipur, and the whole of India for that matter, is very unfortunate.

A great number of students who have interests in other fields and those who have undecided interests decide to pursue a future in Medicine. When asked why, they simply reply that getting a job in this sector assures them at least of some salary. Just for the sake of some salary, they are ready to set foot into the sacred Temple of Medicine. They come to earn, not serve. There are also others, who despite having profound interest in other fields are forced to take up medicine by their parents and elders. Some parents want their children to become doctors to serve the ailing masses. Such parents are really praiseworthy. But a big majority of them want their children to pursue Medicine just for the sake of JOB SECURITY, and yes although they do it to safeguard their children’s futures, it is very unfortunate. Here I present a dialogue that parents use very frequently now a days: “My son/daughter, I know that you want to pursue a career in administration/music/business/acting etc etc etc but at least try to become a doctor first. That way you’ll have some job security and a decent salary. Then you are free to try out anything you want”.

It sounds very reasonable at first but it is not good at all. Just for the sake of job security, why should you follow a path that you do not like? People will surely argue that employment opportunities for educated youth are very limited in Manipur, and that the profession of a doctor is the best bet for a source of income. Once in a while, a sensible person will advise the students to just follow their dreams and pursue a future in the field that they are interested in. The students will surely want to follow their hearts, but the reply from them would be – “Yes, we want to follow our dreams. But this is Manipur and our elders discourage us for there are limited employment opportunities”. How long will we continue to follow the crowd? It is high time that we change the mindsets of the general public. Let us accept all challenges on the path to success, even if we take a road less travelled. We cannot wait for our society to change, we must be the change that we ourselves want to see in this land of ours. When we follow the path that we like, why should we not meet success?

Anyway, the story does not end here. The result of this medico-craze in Manipur is that a number of coaching centres specialized for medical entrance tests have mushroomed in the state, especially in the Imphal area. In fact, it can be safely said that all this coaching and related stuff have become a very profitable industry. I do not mean to discredit these coaching centres, for they have produced many successful students in the past few years. But there is a clear sign of commercialism in education nowadays. Considering the huge number of students who get enrolled in these coaching centres every year, the number of students who actually crack entrance tests is really low. Many students keep on trying the entrance tests repeatedly, draining a good amount of money in the meanwhile. Not only do they waste resources, they waste valuable time as well. In this ever-competitive age, I feel that dropping of years to prepare for competitive exams can be very costly when it comes to age-limits for employment.
Over and above that, many students head to places like Delhi, Kolkata, Kota etc. to join coaching institutes of repute at the worth of lakhs of rupees. I am afraid that the situation in these places is pretty much similar to here. There is always a great difference between the number of students enrolled and the number of students selected. The ultimate fact is that only a few fortunate students are benefited by this coaching and all. However, the resource drain continues and the coaching centres continue to thrive.

The situation in Manipur is best described by these words from a senior doctor in a central institute in Imphal: – “Now a days, most students that come to study MBBS, except a few, are plagued by brain-drain. Most of them have used all their mental power just to crack the entrance test that by the time they start studying the real thing, their brains are completely worn out. Moreover, it is very unfortunate that many of the new generation doctors are profit-driven rather than ready to help the patients in need”.
Then, what do the ‘unwilling people’ do when they become doctors, especially in government service?

Many of them neglect their duties and turn their backs on the people they were supposed to serve. There are many cases of doctors not going to the primary health centres and dispensaries where they have been posted. While the people in remote areas lament their absence, they just continue to enjoy their salary. There are also many cases of doctors in government hospitals engaging themselves in private practice either at their homes or private hospitals, helping themselves to extravagant sums of money over and above the salary from the government. I am not against private hospitals and clinics, but I feel that government doctors should refrain from private practice as far as possible and concentrate instead on their respective duties. Many cases of misunderstanding between the people and the medical fraternity have been reported in recent times.

The doctors and the people are at fault in this matter. Regarding the attitude of the general public, it is okay for them to raise their voices against negligence by doctors, but they should realize that doctors too have their limits. The fact should be accepted that not all patients deaths and mishaps are due to negligence of doctors. On the other hand, doctors should also ensure that they do not lose their temper and they should as far as possible refrain from using words that would antagonize patients or their family members.

I would like to conclude with the following words. Everyone, please think twice before you enter the field of Medicine. In order for our state’s healthcare scenario to improve, we need fully dedicated and focused doctors. Technological advancements are useless if people themselves do not change. Do not seek to become doctors just for the sake of job security/money. Only when you are fully committed to the service of humanity and when you are ready to sacrifice, emotionally, physically and mentally for the welfare of the sick….. think of becoming a DOCTOR.

Source: The Sangai Express

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