"Generosity, compassion and dedication go a long way toward giving the Philippine medical profession the credit and goodwill that often elude it."
One of the most controversial issues associated with a health care system is the pricing of the services of medical professionals. Indeed, levels of the fees charged by doctors and consultants usually figure prominently in the typical list of complaints against most health care systems. The words often used to describe the PF (professional fees) charged by medical professionals include “outrageous,” “excessive” and “unconscionable.”
Truth to tell, professional fees in certain professions are very often close to outrageous and the fees charged by medical professionals are among the highest fees charged by members of the professional class. The fees charged by members of my own profession—law practice—match, or closely approximate, the numbers that appear on doctors’ bills.
Charging for services, in general, is more difficult than charging for merchandise, and charging for professional services is far more difficult. Charging and getting paid for professional services rendered is far different in urban medical facilities than in provincial clinics and doctors’ offices. There is no paying with eggs and other food items in urban medical facilities; all financial procedures are undertaken with the intervention of technology.
There are at least three reasons why medical professionals charge fees that are termed excessive or, at times, downright outrageous. The first, obviously, is the length of time it takes for a student to be licensed as a doctor; for doctors the period, including internship time, is around ten years. The second reason is the experience that doctors have to acquire before they perform transplants, mend bones, fight off deadly infections and do other acting-like-God things. The third—and by far the most important-—reason, why hospital-based doctors charge the fees that they do, is the well-honed judgment they have to bring into play when they go about their health-preserving and life-saving duties.
Because they deal with life itself, doctors arguably are the most important professionals in the world. And when a doctor performs at his best when he or she has snatched a patient from the jaws of death, a doctor is truly a wonder to behold.
Even greater sources of wonder are those instances, which are infrequent, when top-notch medical professionals either effect huge cuts in their billed fees or waive their fees totally. Every time stories of that kind are told, the overall reputation of the medical profession is enormously enhanced. Doctors cease to be the heartless, patient-gouging individuals that they are widely believed to be.
A case in point is that of the team of doctors from different medical specializations, who, I am told, seemed to have reduced the fees that they charged a man who entered Asian Hospital and Medical Center in a very critical, infection-caused condition. Having been in the hospital’s ICU (intensive care unit) the entire time that he was there, the patient racked up an enormous total of hospital and professional fees. Asian Hospital, after all, is part of the largest group of high-class hospitals in this country.
Because their patient was an individual of modest means, all the members of the team that attended to him agreed to take reductions in their professional fees. Although most doctors are not keen on publicity about their hospital work, five members of the team—cardiologist Dr. Christopher de los Reyes, nephrologist Dr. Pelagio Esmaquel, infectious diseases specialist Dr. Roberto Salvino, neurologist Dr. Joanne Robles and hematologist Dr. Anna May Agdamag—deserve special mention.
But this team’s generosity is not all about money. The patient’s family is especially appreciative of the care, compassion and dedication that the doctors showed not only toward the patient, but most importantly, to his children (The patient was a single father). From Day One, this team showed total professional dedication to their patient. They even went out of their way to the extent, of providing counsel, to members of the patient’s family. They have remained true to the compassionate service that Asian Hospital brands itself to be.
Dear doctors, generosity, compassion and dedication like yours go a long way toward giving the Philippine medical profession the credit and goodwill that often elude it. May your tribe increase.