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Keeping wayward doctors in line - Medical Assn gets colleagues to talk to others who are subjects of complaints

Published:Sunday | July 27, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

Worrying complaints against some doctors have forced the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) to dispatch senior members of the profession to have a quiet word with those who are letting down the team.

The MAJ does not have the authority to punish doctors, but its president, Dr Shane Alexis, says from time to time it has found it necessary to call on respected professionals from among its ranks to hold talks with doctors who are the subjects of adverse reports.

"Adverse complaints do not help us. It undermines our profession, and not just the profession, but in the eyes of our patients, because medicine is based on trust. Anything that undermines trust in medicine only hurts us. It hurts people with real illnesses coming in to seek help," said Alexis, as he responded to a series of complaints received by our news team about behaviour unbecoming of doctors.

According to Alexis, discussions with wayward practitioners are critical. "We take it seriously and we try to see if there is anyone we need to have a talk with or encourage them. We have what is called three wise men, who we dispatch to … look at issues," Alexis explained.

He said while the MAJ would not necessarily report its members to the Medical Council of Jamaica, which is the body mandated to take action against bad doctors, the complaints are neither ignored nor hidden under a rug.

"We do talk to them in a firm manner, sensitising them of the need to change, or improve their practice, or desist from certain things," explained Alexis.

He said the MAJ also encourages persons to file formal complaints with the Medical Council.

"Patients must feel comfortable to come forward and we have to create mechanisms where there are less obstacles, where you are not just having frivolous complaints, which undermines a doctor's job," said Alexis.

"You can't box the bread out of a man's mouth unless you are very sure it is deserved. I am just saying to patients that the Medical Council is where you put your complaints," declared Alexis, as he noted that the number of complaints to the council has been on the decline over the past 10 years.

"But one complaint is one too many … ," added Alexis.