The real shame
It’s interesting to watch how the Yeng Constantino “doctor shaming” drama has played out. We’re all familiar with the backlash from the viral video that the singer made where she lashed out at a medical professional who was attending to her injured husband while they were on vacation in Siargao. A video designed to spark outrage and sympathy on her behalf, while at the same time garnering YouTube likes and equivalent moneys, very quickly backfired as it became clear that the comments she made were both illegal and unfair.
The issue died down quickly enough, and it was a surprise to many that a case had apparently been pursued, culminating in a warrant of arrest that circulated on social media last week. It is a satisfying surprise—not because a local celebrity was getting her just deserts, but because we so very rarely see news of justice being served, or wrongdoing being correctly and proportionately penalized. In a recent public appearance, the singer seemed more preoccupied by the “bashing” she had received rather than remorseful about her actions, and of course the bail amounted to something quite measly for a successful artist. But still, some semblance of justice was served, and people who would publicly badmouth the frontliners of health care will probably think twice before doctor shaming.Unfortunately, this is where the issue ends. Constantino’s reputation may be a little bruised at the moment but will heal fast enough; she even recently bagged her first acting award at the Metro Manila Film Festival, so it’s doubtful that her career will suffer any lasting harm. The good doctor walks away with her license intact, having defended her profession and her integrity. The incident may have given both parties and us, the nationwide audience, some food for thought, and might stay the hand of someone planning to “expose” a health care professional publicly, but what remains unchanged are the conditions that surrounded the incident in the first place: limited resources. Challenges in emergent patient transport and access to health facilities. A daunting doctor-to-patient ratio. Health facilities short on trained ancillary staff.
I’ve been privileged to read the writings of several talented doctors, nurses and patients about the health care system; I feel that the number of health workers inspired to blog or write essays about their experiences has increased, and the stories are sometimes funny, usually inspiring, but also mostly sad. In yesterday’s “High Blood,” a Philippine General Hospital patient wrote beautifully and sympathetically about the long wait for outpatient consultations and the best efforts of the young doctors and nurses who receive them. In light of last year’s waxing and waning doctor-shaming issues so many have written to talk about how health workers stretch themselves thin just to fill in the gaps in the system. We have so many who are crying out for help, expressing bewilderment, frustration and heartbreak over the problems which have dogged our hospitals for as long as we can remember. In a way that was what Yeng Constantino was expressing, too. And yet it feels like nothing changes.
Health workers are still watching their patients die preventable deaths while government officials enjoy excess after excess. For many patients their best hope for funding health expenses is still crowdfunding or requesting assistance from local officials or city halls. The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, in a recent notice to the public, stated that as the country transitions to implementation of the Universal Health Care Act, its specific subsidies have been either reduced or even terminated, with no back-up plan for patients in the meantime. The more things change, the more things stay the same, and it’s always the sick Filipino who is left scrambling to find solutions or pick up the pieces when the system fails them, while celebrity squabbles get more attention and more coverage. That’s the real shame.
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