Reaction to Abalos column

READERS' VIEWS - The Freeman

Good day. I read the article of Mr. Fidel Abalos in today's issue of your newspaper entitled "Medical Tourism: Are health practitioners for it?" and would like to comment on the first sentence of paragraph 7 which states that : "Obviously, therefore, the real issue right now is on our health practitioners (grammatical error not mine, but the author's). Today, it seems that, due to the health practitioners' exodus, majority of those who stayed behind are UNDESIRABLES " . Why exactly does choosing to stay behind and serve one's countrymen deem a person UNDESIRABLE? How exactly can one be categorized as UNDESIRABLE if he chooses not to seek greener pastures and higher pay but rather to deal with government bureaucracy and corruption, low pay, inadequate medical facilities and still try to render the best possible care to those who need it the most? Does he mean to imply that those of us who stay behind are rejects and unable to get a job abroad? Citing myself as an example, I am a permanent resident of Canada. I could have left the country right after graduating from medical school at the top of my class and easily pass all the requisite exams for working abroad, but I chose to stay and work in a government hospital for five years and then practice in Cebu City for the next 20 years. I thought it would be a better place to raise my family and I saw, after my stint in government service, that this was where I was needed. Many of my contemporaries felt the same way because during our formative years, we were fortunate to have the shining example of Dr. Juan Flavier at the helm of the DOH and we started our professional life during the administration of President Cory Aquino when optimism and national pride was at its peak. During the troubled Erap administration, we still chose to stay and stick it out when many of our colleagues were leaving the country and the profession to start anew in a foreign land. I do not consider myself or any of my colleagues who chose to stay and serve as UNDESIRABLE in any way. I know of fellow doctors who serve in the poorest barrios, being paid with livestock and farm products but who feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose which cannot be replicated in those of us who practice in the modern , high-tech environment of the city and the first world countries. Has Mr. Abalos ever spent a sleepless night at the bedside of a dying patient? Has he ever spent long hours ventilating a premature newborn by hand? Has he ever had to treat wounded soldiers on the battlefield? Has he ever had to shell out money from his own pocket to buy medicines for his patient so that he could get clearance to undergo life-saving surgery? Those of us that he considers UNDESIRABLE have done so, many times over. Young physicians in training go on 24-hour duty every other day. That means they report for work at 7 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m. (at the earliest) THE NEXT DAY. A total of 35 hours straight. Then they go home to sleep for 12 hours only to repeat the cycle the very next day. Are they UNDESIRABLE? Maybe only to the opposite sex since they are so tired, and haggard that they have begun to look like zombies. It is the UNDESIRABLE local doctors who treat charity patients, participate in medical missions, volunteer in disaster-stricken areas, who travel to the hinterlands to treat people who would otherwise have no access to medical care. There are those who serve and risk their lives in the military, to treat wounded soldiers in the battlefield and in the field hospitals. There are those who dedicate their lives to being teachers in order to train and inspire future medical practitioners to follow in their footsteps. There are those in government service, lending their expertise to treat every patient who goes through their doors, even if they have no facilities or medicines and have to endure local politics, having to kowtow to a mayor or governor whose educational attainment is only half of theirs. These are the people who chose to stay. These are the people you term UNDESIRABLE.

And you have the nerve to cite three negative incidents and say that the MAJORITY of health practitioners in the country are UNDESIRABLE!! Since when in THREE a majority? Are you perhaps referring to a Mahjongg or golf game? THREE out of thousands cannot possibly constitute a majority. Yes these incidents are regrettable and do cast a bad image for the profession but by no stretch of the imagination can they constitute a majority. Nor can they justify your casting aspersions on a noble profession which is already being vilified by the likes of Kim Henares who by the way, also unfairly categorizes medical professionals as being a burden on the taxpayers. Many young medical professionals DO pay less income tax than public school teachers precisely because they earn LESS than public school teachers. Yet they choose to stay and serve. And does that make them UNDESIRABLE too? I just hope and pray that you will not become sick in the near future and have to contend with being treated by the UNDESIRABLES who constitute the MAJORITY of health professionals in the country (your words, not mine). I just hope and pray that you have the means and wherewithal to seek treatment in first world countries whose MAJORITY of medical professionals are DESIRABLE to you. That being the case, I wish you good health and a long and happy life where you will never need UNDESIRABLE medical care.


Yours Truly,


Maria Cynthia Hortelano, MD

Diplomate, Philippine Board of Anesthesiology

Cebu Doctors' University Hospital

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