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VietNamNews

Should doctors be able to turn away non-emergency patients?

Update: April, 03/2015 - 09:34

Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers whether doctors can refuse non-emergency patients due to schedule conflict or could their actions can be classified as unethical.

Here are some responses:

Jimmy Clarke, British, Ha Noi

The UK has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and it is completely free. When it was first set up, people had little choice over where and how they were treated. The last Labour Party government, however, changed the law so that people can choose their general practitioner (like a local family doctor), which consultants can treat them and where they are treated.

If one doctor is too busy, you have to wait, or choose another. The choice-system is managed by your local general practitioner. He/she provides you with the list of choices and tries to get you your first choice. If she can't, she goes to the second, third, etc…

Doctors and hospitals also all have online ratings and waiting list times so you can select which choice is best for you.

Nguyen Anh, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

I do believe doctors should have the right to refuse patients if the case is not life threatening.

As a Vietnamese, I know how bad our country's medical service really is. In rural areas, hospitals are usually under equipped and doctors inexperienced. Many scandals related to doctors in Viet Nam have also occurred in recent years, so trust in medical services is low.

If I am a patient, I would want a veteran doctor to attend to my health condition. However, if every Vietnamese patient demands the same, then top doctors and central hospitals are always under a lot of pressure.

Many people have illnesses that can be easily treated at local hospitals but they get anxious and travel to central hospitals for treatment.

If top doctors try to satisfy all the demand, they will definitely be overworked and cannot offer the best of their skills to the patients. Patients with emergencies and serious health issues might not get the treatment by top doctors that they need.

Young, local and inexperienced doctors will also not have the chance to gain experience and practice their skills.

However, I believe, a doctor who turns down a patient should offer his best advice on where to get treatment and make sure the patient is comfortable both physically and emotionally.

John Grist, British, Ha Noi

In my opinion, to borrow the words of William Shakespeare, this is "much ado about nothing." The article states that the required treatment was a non-emergency procedure. In any country, if using private healthcare, you have the right to request a specific medical practitioner, but by the same token that practitioner has the right to control his or her workload.

Quite frankly, if a doctor is exhausted, I would not wish to take the risk of erroneous surgical mishap as a result of fatigue.

The medical profession is a caring profession and I do not believe that any doctor would allow someone to suffer unnecessarily, but that must include themselves. If they believe that their own fatigue could be detrimental to the patient, they should refuse to operate in non-emergency situations.

One also needs to be cautious of the motive for seeking publicity for this event. New money, in particular, has created a consumerism in which people think that money "talks." Hopefully this doctor was sufficiently rested to provide professional care the following day.

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

Once a doctor has taken the Hippocratic Oath (first, do no harm), they are duty bound to help everyone and anyone regardless of circumstance. Doctors are people too. They get tired, they need an income and they have (justifiably) big egos.

A doctor can only refuse service if a replacement is provided. Canada's universal health care system means you take whichever doctor is on duty in the emergency ward. You can look around for a general practice family doctor, but most have waiting lists so for convenience you go to the closest clinic.

I have a problem if rich guys are allowed to pay to jump the queue. I don't care so much if the doctor seems rude or indifferent to my pain (called poor bedside manner). As long as I get fixed up, I will take care of bruised emotions myself.

It wouldn't be a good idea to upset your doctor. If you push too hard, they might make a fatal mistake.

Giang Le, Vietnamese, HCM City

I think doctors absolutely have the right to reject patients if there is clearly a schedule conflict or the conditions of illness do not require treatment from top-level doctors.

Currently, in our system, many poor patients do not have access to top doctors. It is likely that our top doctors are regularly available to those who can pay and are well-connected.

The whole system should strive towards a fairer system where doctors are available to those who need them the most. — VNS

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