A Bangladeshi physician who goes ‘extra mile’ to care for ailing people
Z A M Khairuzzaman
Lots of Bangladeshi patients seek treatment abroad despite availability of top-notch doctors in the country. According to both healthcare experts and patients, local patients fly abroad for treatment as they cannot rely on the local medical systems what the newspaper reports say. In some cases, the press reports said the patients find the medical treatment relatively more cost-effective in some countries than hospitals in Bangladesh. People from Bangladesh travel across border to countries such as India, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia due to alleged poor quality of medical and nursing care, delays in surgery, poor diagnostic results and alleged corruption in healthcare service delivery at home. India is the preferred choice of an attractive destination for patients from Bangladesh in terms of low travel cost across border, affordable surgery, no waiting period, climate, English language, familiarity with culture, history, food, local language, attractive destination, international and government accreditation. According to an Indian press report, a huge majority of medical tourists – 54.3 per cent – who visited India last year were from Bangladesh.
India’s famed cardiac surgeon Devi Shetty says he feels ‘sad’ to see the plight of Bangladeshi mothers who carry their newborn babies and travel all the way to Bangalore for a simple procedure. He said those procedures could have been done in Bangladesh. But they travel for three and a half days by train or bus to come and ‘spend 10 minutes with me’ because of ‘trust, love and affection’. “Some of them do not even need operations,” he told Bangladeshi newsmen in a brief interaction in recent past. “We develop trust in some people, and then wherever they are they travel all the way to Bangalore,” he mentioned.
Bangladesh has developed its cardiac surgeries discipline in recent years, but Dr Shetty still remains a household name for many, particularly for those who need their newborns’ heart operated for congenital problems. His Narayana Health City is known for ‘quality but low-cost’ services. He believes that there are simple solutions that can make healthcare affordable. He receives patients not only from Bangladesh, but also from all over South Asia. “I guess it is the trust, love and affection we have for each other which keeps growing,” he said when asked what drives patients to him. “This is an example I give to all the young doctors. This is a fantastic profession where you can touch the lives of millions and millions of people, and you can be a hero in real life and this is what this profession does”. “And that is why this keeps us growing even at this stage of our life,” he said. It is not only Bangalore, but Bangladeshi patients rush to various destinations in India for treatment of various diseases.
Now let us come back home to remember a valuable suggestion of Bhutanese Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering who was a former student of Mymensingh Medical College from where he received the MBBS degree as a foreign student of its 28th batch. When the Bhutanese PM he visited Bangladesh in April 2019, doctors and students of the aforesaid medical college accorded a special reception to welcome back one of their alumni on April 14, the same year. While addressing the reception, he urged the medical students to become a good human being first for turning themselves into a good doctor. “One has to be a good human being for becoming a good doctor,” he said. The Bhutanese premier urged the doctors to treat every patient with the highest attention and sincerity. “We, the physicians, always receive patients … we are used to spending time with patients, but they may come to us once in a lifetime …. so, we should give our total attention to every single patient,” he stated.
Trust is a fundamental aspect of the patient-physician relationship. Even well-informed and knowledgeable patients have to rely on their physicians to provide them with appropriate information, keep personal information confidential, provide competent care, and act in their best interests. There is a serious problem that some doctors in Bangladesh are not ready to properly communicate with their patients as they find it unnecessary. However, there are exceptions. Professor Dr A T M Amanullah, a working urologist, neuro-urologist and laparoscopic surgeon at the Department of Urology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical Universitty (BSMMU), is such an exception. Being a doctor he is a good human being, who always goes an ‘extra mile’ to care for ailing patients. Every time a patient visits him, he goes above and beyond for him/her. Patients receive a wonderful care from him. He is well-organised and conscientious, who provides excellent ideas ‘outside of the box’ for patients’ healing and well-being. Most of the patients appreciate his sincere care. As a doctor, he spends enough time with patients when they come to him. He answers patients’ tough questions and is always honest.
Patients always look for more compassion than commodified services. They always feel comfort when they come to his hospital chamber at the BSMMU or personal chamber at the city’s Shantinagar branch of Popular Diagnostic Centre for treatment and consultation. Dr Amanullah possesses a wonderful communication skill as well as an exact professional attitude. He is well-aware about the importance of trust to the patient-physician relationship. He ensures people-friendly, quality and cost-effective services. In some cases, he even takes care of insolvent patients without taking any consultation fee. To him a patient isn’t just a list of medical problems and medications. He is always collaborative. He is an active listener and asks open-ended questions to patients. He knows how to make a patient feel as though he/she is being cared for, that his/her concerns are valid, and he/she is being heard. He is personable, great listener, and empathetic to the concerns of his patients. He has been able to touch the lives of hundreds of ailing people.
To a patient, the behaviour of physicians matters most. By dint of his good behaviour and cordiality, Professor Amanullah already won the hearts of thousands of his patients. If Bangladeshi doctors can emulate the shining example of this humanitarian physician then local patients will no more seek treatment abroad. Ultimately, a huge foreign currency will also be saved from going down the drain every year.
The writer is a columnist.