Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Medical flying squad to protect doctors

Medical Flying squads were created in order to handle medical emergencies . They were first developed by obstetricians, and a team of medical personnel was rushed to help women with complicated labours and childbirths. They were very useful and were responsible for saving many lives .

While flying squads are no longer very common, the Ahmedabad Medical Association has created a new concept of medical flying squads to help doctors who are faced with unexpected complications or emergencies.

One of the nightmares for any doctor in practise is an intraoperative emergency or complication. Unfortunately, no matter how careful and competent the doctor, it is a sad fact of life that complications will occur. For example, a patient may have a cardiac arrest during a minor surgical procedure; or a patient may die because of uncontrolled bleeding during a caesarean section.

When this happens, angry relatives and friends ( often goaded by goons ) will take matters in their own hands. There are now many instances where doctors have been beaten up and hospitals have been damaged, when these kinds of incidents occur. Doctors feel vulnerable and defenceless - and this has led to a rift between doctors and patients. Doctors will often turn away emergency cases because they do not want to take a risk in case the patient does not do well.

Unfortunately, the police are of little help in such emergencies. They will often fail to turn up - or even when they do, they often refuse to intervene or protect the doctor.

Even more significant than the physical damage these incidents cause, it is the irreparable harm they do to the doctor's psyche and his reputation which are especially worrisome. The doctor's broken bones will heal - but a good reputation created over a lifetime of providing good medical care goes down the drain in a few minutes. The media is quite happy to add fuel to fire, by reporting on the " doctor's gross medical negligence", without ever bothering to find the facts.

These incidents have an impact on other doctors as well, who then develop an patient-unfriendly attitude. Rather than treat each patient encounter as an opportunity to serve and heal, each patient is seen to be a potential adversary !

On a recent visit to Ahmedabad, I was very impressed to learn about a very clever initiative which the Ahmedabad Medical Association, an organisation which is now over 108 years old, has developed. Rather than depend upon the police to help them in their time of need, doctors have banded together to help each other.

The Association is remarkable for the sense of unity and camaraderie which exists amongst its members ! Practically all doctors in Ahmedabad are members - both family physicians and specialists. They have set up a medical flying squad, which consists of a group of senior doctors, who will rush to the aid of any doctor, no matter what time it is, whenever they receive a distress call.

An intraoperative emergency or complication is every doctor's nightmare - especially when this occurs in a small private nursing home. With this kind of backup service available, doctors in private practise can rest assured that help is just a phone call away !

Not only does the squad provide valuable medical assistance and a useful second opinion in handling the emergency, they provide a cool head to assist the doctor, who is often scared witless when the patient has a complication. This group of doctors provides reassurance to the relatives, that their patient is getting the best possible medical care from the leading specialists. They help to maintain peace and order - and can also organise police support if needed, as they are respected citizens who are held in high regard.

I think this is a great service and this is a model all Medical Associations all over the country can learn from. Senior doctors - including those who have retired, can offer to serve on these Flying Squads. Not only will this help them to keep gainfully occupied, it will also help them to earn a lot of respect and goodwill. After all, if doctors do not help each other, then who will ?

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