You may or may not be aware about the upcoming, likely, strike by junior doctors in England over a contract that would compromise the safety of patients and doctors and cause severe financial penalty. All this to a vocation that gives so much of itself, for the service of humanity. It is with interest that I read this article written by Simon Jenkins, lamenting how society will be held to ransom by 'militant doctors and angry lawyers' over a contract that Judkins feels is more than fair. I mean, why should society bend over backwards when in the NHS "consultants worked to their own schedules of convenience and remuneration"?
Well, aside from the mythical skills that professionals are using to befuddle the public, according to Jenkins, doctors are a bunch of whiners who are taking up arms on social media and are the new unions, being held to account by nobody and resorting to workforce crippling tactics.
Why is it that professionals, like doctors and lawyers, are not allowed to negotiate and make demands for pay, like any other worker? Why are we not allowed to stand up for a true worth? Is it acceptable that a doctor could be rostered on for 24 hours or more and be responsible? People like Judkins are more interested in their pilots sticking to safe work hours than their doctors.
Medicine is a fundamentally altruistic profession. I'm not sure people realise to what extent doctors sacrifice and go without in order to do their job - helping other humans. It is a lifelong sacrifice and a labour of love for the people and for the profession. Unfortunately, a proportion of the public will always see doctors (or any other professional) as elitist, golf playing, champagne drinking snobs who have it good. Nobody would deny you for a second that by and large, people who have had the means to obtain a professional degree have had a degree of privilege, but make no mistake, that means squat without hard work and extreme dedication.
Irrespective of whether you believe that doctors are kind hearted souls, the fact remains that we have rights as workers just as anyone else does. It is also important to remember that these rights also protect the rights of the patients. Safeguards for working hours are meant to protect doctors from being too tired and therefore making mistakes. Or killing themselves. As a junior doctor, I remember a young obstetrics registrar being killed in a car accident after having worked some unholy hours. I participate in rosters where doctors are rostered on for 24 hours. Back to the pilots, they can't fly this long. Are we more afraid of flying than of not surviving a heart attack? Because statistically, the later is more likely.
Worker's rights are not just for tube drivers in London, or nurses or train drivers in Melbourne. They're not just for blue collar workers who are going to be exploited by their fat cat employers (extreme sarcasm). Workers rights are for everyone. And in the case of junior doctors, they really are for everyone, because who wants a tired, unhappy and undertrained doctor?
It's time we stopped cutting down tall poppies. Professionals are people too and deserve as much protection as anybody else. And in the case of doctors, your life just may depend upon them one day.