A DOCTOR in Papua New Guinea works from 8am to 4pm without lunch most of the time when busy, moving from wards to the consultation clinics straight away, from Monday to Friday.
Or, the doctor will be operating in the operating theatre from 9am to 5pm after a quick morning ward round, missing lunch, along the way, from Monday to Friday.
Then the doctors go on-call from 4pm to 8am the next day, then have to continue the day’s work from 8am to 4pm before going off duty, and return at 8am for the next day’s work.
If I am on call today, I am expected to work for 32 hours non-stop. This is the life of a doctor.
You would be lucky, if there are two of you looking after the unit or the hospital; otherwise, it is not 32 hours, but 24- hours a day, seven-days a week. What a life, but somebody has to sign up for it.
In 1992, the National Doctors Association asked the Department of Personnel Management to pay doctor’s overtime but due to the number of hours a doctor does the overtime, the Government would have run out of money, so we agreed to a consolidated overtime allowances.
Before that, the Government cheated us by paying us only K2 a day on-call and they said that was overtime. So in a month roster of 14 days on-call, I ended up getting only K28, even though I could have worked for 14 days by 20 hours = 280 hours.
This was the reason for the 1992 strike.
Back then, we sacrificed for the country because the country was not rich as it is today. Today, the daily newspapers talked about millions, not thousands. Waigani is full of money every minute. Some people are cheating and stealing money, but we doctors want our share of the money in the most honest way, so what is wrong with that?
After all, we spend five years at the medical school, two years as resident doctors, and another four years to get our masters degrees. That amounts to a total of 11 years of study, and where is the monetary value attached to that number of years studying, and obtaining higher qualifications?
We are ashamed when our families, relatives, wantoks, and friends tease us by saying “bikpela dokta nating na nogat moni” (Big doctor for nothing and no money).
Doctors are supposed to be well compensated, we are sacrificing, but we need to survive in towns just like everybody else. We deserve a better deal, Mr Kali.
Alotau. Milne Bay province