A few weeks ago, the community around one of the hospitals where I work picked up their torches and pitchforks (well, sort of) and protested again. I’ve written before about South Africa’s protest state of mind, and about working during a riot.
As it stands, when this specific community protests, they protest right outside the hospital. No matter the reason for protesting, they block all entrances to the hospital and threaten anybody who tries to circumvent them.
Police told us to turn around. We called our superiors. They told us to come to work.
Find a way.
Protests are increasing in intensity with the local government elections around the corner, and we felt unsafe. We told our supervisors we would wait at an allocated point until we were safely able to get to the hospital. (The interns had a teaching at another hospital, which was why our superiors were already at work without us.)
When we finally made it to work, we were ridiculed.
That night, a group of representatives wrote to our medical association asking for support. We asked for a set protocol on what to do when our safety is threatened.
The response we got (from the legal team) was, “If the protest is not on hospital grounds, the hospital has no responsibility to ensure your safety.”
Say what now?
Firstly, we never expected the hospital to ensure safe passage for us. We asked for a clear protocol on steps to take when our passage to work is blocked.
But secondly, how crude can you get?
Your doctors are directly threatened when they try to get to work, and your response is, “not my responsibility”. Really?
Three weeks later, we have progressed no further with a resolution.
I realised then that our disillusionment with our work has less to do with the long hours we work, and the conditions within which we do it; and more to do with the fact that our bosses don’t care about our well-being.
No doctor would admit it, because to say you feel unappreciated is to suggest that glory and appreciation are what we crave from our professions. But at the very heart of it, we do feel unappreciated, unacknowledged by the politicians and the guys and girls in the suits who have the final say about the conditions of our work.
We lose entire days of our lives to twenty-four hour shifts. We sacrifice health and wellness for the wellness of our patients. It is a decision we make. But that does not mean that we don’t hope for some consideration.
We are not disillusioned because we work so hard. We are disillusioned because when it comes right down to it, we are expendable.