POSTSCRIPT / October 4, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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This nation in crisis needs a good manager

HELP WANTED: Seeing the continuing confusion in the rescue, relief and rehabilitation after the “Onyong” deluge, we can only conclude that what we urgently need is a Good Manager, not politicians eyeing public approval, on top of the gigantic effort.

Extending that to a wider time-frame, what we probably must do in May 2010 is to elect a proven Good Manager who can stop the disintegration of the country and give it momentum for growth during his term and beyond.

We have been searching for authentic leaders and heroes. In desperation we have been willing to try even comedians, movie stars, and such mass media creations — ignoring the fact that suffrage pertains to elections and not to popularity contests.

If a summa cum laude or a Harvard certificate is no guarantee that one installed to a key government position will make a Good Manager, neither can the electoral process transform one whose only virtue is honesty into the president that we need.

What will? I can/will not answer that in one sentence. Each one of us will have to provide his own answer and express it come Election Day.

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ON TV LIVE: We should minimize talking elections at this point, but the bungling and antics of politicians exacerbating the Onyong crisis — which threatens to erupt into a bigger public health and security problem — force us to speak up.

We are dismayed by the daily radio-TV show of high officials reciting cold statistics and talking of piecemeal relief efforts that only expose their lack of leadership and managerial ability.

It is galling also to see high-profile intending candidates giving, and thus insulting, flood victims relief packages stamped with their names obviously for recall purposes and votes.

This is one reason why many private entities give relief goods directly to victims and not through government agencies. It has been noticed also that some foreign donors choose to channel aid through the Red Cross, the Church and other private groups.

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EMBARGO: With due respect to my colleagues, I think it is best for us in media to embargo news and pictures of known aspirants, especially for the presidency, publicizing their rescue and relief campaign.

An exception is President Arroyo as she is not running in 2010 anyway. If she wants to be seen directing traffic (!) near Malacañang or presiding over a disaster meeting running in disastrous circles, let her.

The flood victims that politicians have helped, whether in good faith or in quest of pogi points, will be the best judge of whether or not to thank them.

To avoid distortions, media can avoid publicizing and thereby magnifying relief work of would-be candidates. Let the politicians work quietly among those in need and let the latter, and the Lord watching from above, judge them.

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REACTION: Among those who reacted to my Postscript of Sept. 22 titled “Who’ll protect patients from wolves in hospitals?” was Noreen C. Tangcuangco, MD, DPCP. She said in part:

“I am a physician in my early thirties, training to be a neurologist. I have been in medical training for the past 12 years and have not actually started private practice. I had gone from ‘pure’ idealism as a first-year medical student to ‘practical’ idealism as a resident-in-training. Though there are those among us who have lost that spark of idealism, I assure you, there are quite a number of us who have NOT. The assumption that doctors are ‘avarice-laden wolves in hypocritical white’ is unjust and unwarranted.

“It is true what you say that there are those among us who stratify fees. I do not think there’s anything wrong with that — as long as you charge reasonably, not exorbitantly. Charging patients a reasonable fee according to services rendered and which is due you as a professional does not necessarily equate with being avaricious and greedy. As professionals whose job is to ‘promote health and save lives,’ we have a right to due compensation.

“If one can afford to pay his building contractor/architectural firm P50 million to build his house, then he can certainly afford to provide for his healthcare — so he can maintain his quality of life and keep enjoying his beautiful house with the people he loves. If one can afford a thousand-peso haircut by a professional hairdresser who trained for six months in Singapore, don’t you think that person can also afford to pay the thousand-peso PF her doctor charged?

“It’s not that people can’t pay. It’s that they won’t. Because to them, healthcare is only an option (but not the latest model of Samsung phone that came out).

“Health is a basic right. This also means that everyone, seeing it as their right, should be responsible for their health and provide for it. Of course, there are our unfortunate kababayans who cannot afford anything at all — not food on their table, nor clothes, nor a roof over their heads — and cannot provide for the healthcare that they need. Hence, the stratified fees.

“A doctor’s practice, more than just the daily visits, may include: the accountability for the patient, the hours spent researching for updated treatments, hours spent conferring with colleagues, skill of balancing art and medicine, time and gas spent driving to the hospital to visit the patient (yes, we, too, are not exempt from parking fees), sleepless nights due to calls of updates on the patient during unholy hours, the ever-present risk of being infected in a hazardous environment.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 4, 2009)

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