off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Admiral Asif Sandila 
on Patient Safety


Pakistan Army is one of the institutions in Pakistan which is known for its discipline and upholding merit. It is only best out of the best that get promoted and take command of its various institutions and establishments. It becomes evident whenever one listens to the Army leadership. 

At the recently held Patient Safety Seminar organized by PNS Shifa, first it was Surg. Rear Admiral Adil Khan who made an excellent presentation on organizing patient safety programme at Pakistan Navy Hospitals. And when it came the turn of Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Asif Sandila who was the chief guest in one of the sessions; he had some pearls of wisdom and reminded the healthcare professionals about morality and upholding professional medical ethics. Despite the fact that he modified his original speech due to the presence of some civilians in the meeting, as he put it, but even then he conveyed a lot through narrating different stories emphasizing the importance of listening to the patient carefully, being accessible and polite when they deal with the ailing humanity.
I have always had very cordial relations with the doctors throughout my service, he remarked. One of my friends, he said became child specialist and once I went to see him while he was serving at a community hospital in Kharadar Area in Karachi. When one elderly woman came to see him with his child, his attitude was just like a dog to a patient. When I asked about his attitude, he informed me that since it is a free community hospital, people come here even with minor ailments and many times they do not need specialist care and un-necessarily waste the doctor’s time.
I went to see him again after many years and this time he had joined the Children Hospital at Islamabad. Here I saw him a different man. His attitude towards his patients was like that of an Angel. When I reminded him of his attitude at the community hospital at Karachi and how different it was here, he said that in medical college we are never taught about many things. Here we had Prof. Mushtaq A. Khan our boss who told us that listen, the children cannot tell you the disease they are suffering from. You have to work it out and diagnose it through careful examination and history. This has changed my attitude and approach towards the patients completely, he remarked.
Doctors, Admiral Asif Sandila remarked, remain too busy and often they have to look after the patients at odd times at the cost of their and their family comforts. But it is the calling of the profession which they have chosen. If a pilot is suffering from stress or did not have good sleep, he is not allowed to fly but the situation is very different in case of healthcare professionals. Even if they are tired, under stress or have had no sleep, they are supposed to do their duty. It is true that doctors are usually under paid and do not get appropriate remuneration after five to six years of studies in the medical college whereas graduates in other subjects are much better paid after studying for the similar number of years. Once I asked this to one of my friends who is an ophthalmic surgeon. He remarked that he does not serve the patients free. They pay me for consultation and operations but the prayers they offer for me and my family once they overcome their blindness and can see after minor surgical procedures is much more than these monetary gains. Prayers of my patients are much more valuable than these materialistic gains and I will have better times in the next world, he added.
Addressing the medical staff of PNS and other Naval Medical facilities, Admiral Asif Sandila said that all of you in uniform belong to a very privileged class. You should make yourself accessible to the patients and if by any chance, patients cannot reach you, it is your failure. His speech had a message and he tried to convey a lot in between the lines urging the healthcare professionals to make them accessible to the ailing humanity, be kind and courteous to the patients, do not forget their moral values and practice ethical medicine. Doctors community does need to be reminded of all these things from time to time in view of the prevailing situation in the country where unethical medical practices indulged in by a few doctors are often highlighted. In the absence of any effective monitoring and accountability, many of those who practice unethical medicine are seldom punished and thus they bring bad name to the entire medical profession, majority of who are devoted, dedicated to their profession and often serve the patients beyond the call of their duty at much personal discomfort under difficult circumstances.{jcomments on}

© Professional Medical Publications. All rights reserved.