Doctors react to columnist’s rant; one asked ‘are stupid journalists really stupid?’

Mindanao Times columnist Fely Viloria Sicam, in her column that has gone viral, made scathing remarks about a doctor she encountered while her friend was at the Emergency Room of a public hospital.

In her column, Sicam said the doctor who attended to her friend was not a real doctor because he was just a ‘resident’, pointing out he was not wearing uniform and did not speak in English.

In response, at least three doctors answered on different platforms in the internet.

Dr. John ET Manalo made an open letter for Sicam and posted it on his blog. Dr. Adrian Rabe posted his response through Rappler while Dr. Maria Cythia Hortelano answered through her Facebook account.

All three doctors explained that resident doctors are indeed doctors.

Resident doctors are those who have undergone medical school, junior and senior internship and who passed the Physician Licensure Exam. They become residents when they undergo a specialty training in a hospital.

As for the resident not wearing a uniform, both Manalo and Hortelano explained that those dressed in an all-white attire are students, not doctors. Doctors only have white coats on top of their civilian clothes.

Manalo also explained to Sicam that to speak English in a public hospital would be absurd as most of the patients are speaking in Tagalog. Manalo added doctors are supposed to speak to patients in the simplest way possible.

Aside from addressing Sicam’s complaints, all three doctors had their take on the current state of the country’s health system.

In his open letter, Rabe said doctors are not exempted from the poor conditions of government hospitals – poorly ventilated rooms, clogged toilets, and water shortage. Not to mention they are greatly outnumbered by patients.

Manalo likened being a doctor in a public hospital to a movie depicting Japanese soldiers during the World War II. He said the soldiers just kept on coming even though they were continuously being shot at. Patients, as Manalo put it, keep coming in flocks to the Emergency Room and Out-Patient Division in public hospitals, and doctors have to attend to all of them.

Hortelano, a fellow of the Philippine Board of Anaesthesiologists, also lamented that doctors in public hospitals are at the mercy of the local government official who makes decisions in the administration of the hospital despite having minimal or no background in the field of health service. Most doctors are also underpaid and overworked, yet they choose to stay in government hospitals.

All three doctors also explained that doctors are human, too; capable of being hurt by unfounded comments, especially by people who should have done their research before passing judgement.

Rabe called on Sicam to work together with doctors in fixing the dismal state of the country’s health system.

Manalo, while also criticizing Sicam’s grammatical errors, called on Sicam’s a***e of press freedom by posting biased, unprofessional and derogatory remarks.

As an answer to Sicam’s question, Manalo said, “Are stupid journalists really stupid?”