Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Empress has no Clothes

She suspended him from practicing medicine for a month for daring to throw her photograph in a dustbin. She is a political flunky, while he is a medical doctor. To add insult to injury she called the police to arrest him for damaging government property.

While this might sound like some banana republic, it raises issues about respect for a superior, personal dignity, and the place of ego…….
Dr Mark Baylock, the chief medical officer of Manguzi Hospital, trashed the official photograph of the provincial Minister of Health, Peggy Nkonyeni, when she told a meeting at his hospital that rural doctors “do not care about people. It is all about profit”. She was responding to the news that he had raised donor funding to supply rural women with free AZT to prevent them passing on the HIV virus to their babies. Nkonyeni, of course, was only following the official line of her national health minister, who does not believe that HIV/AIDS is a virus, and advocates the use of garlic, beetroot and the African potato as effective ways of preventing the illness. (The only thing she needs to add to this is banana - to truly become a banana republic Minister!).

The difficult issue at stake is how to manage grievance processes. Dr Baylock showed clear disrespect for his superior – and probably from her perspective she might have been tempted to colour this in racial and gender terms. From the point of view of Dr Baylock, his frustration is understandable: he could choose to work much more comfortably in private practice without the political interference. But he has chosen to commit himself to the rural poor, and probably finds it hard to be criticised for his dedication.

So is her picture more important than a month’s worth of health for rural people?
I doubt it. I believe that more sensible ways of resolving the issue could be found. But then, powerful people are often less than sensible. It is often the practice of political leadership to have their pictures placed prominently in public. And it is not long before these pictures take on an aura that is larger than the person. And suddenly I begin to understand the motivation for the commandment that speaks about “Worship no god but me … Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth

Pray for all those dedicated doctors who choose to honour their patients with self-sacrificing service.

1 comment:

Poor African said...

great post! thanks very much for sharing!