Unpredictable schedules part of a doctor's job

As a doctor, I can understand Mr Francis Cheng's frustration at the long waiting time at his general practitioner's clinic (Clinics have heavy patient load because of tardy docs; July 14).

Many factors contribute to a doctor's punctuality. One of them is the very nature of a doctor's job.

Time spent with each patient is unpredictable. Every patient's problem is unique, which requires different amounts of attention.

Time is also needed to explain and discuss treatments, as well as to complete a procedure.

It is difficult to assign a fixed amount of time for a consultation or procedure.

Clinics also often attend to patients according to their medical urgency, rather than time of arrival.

Although my clinic schedules appointments for regular patients, if a sick patient turns up unexpectedly, he would get priority.

Some patients do get upset by the delay, but most of them understand when I apologise and explain.

Contrary to Mr Cheng's experience, most of my medical colleagues are not tardy.

Most doctors put their patients' health and well-being above their own. No matter how tired or hungry they are, they would usually finish all their clinical work before going home.

No matter how tired or hungry doctors are, they would usually finish all their clinical work before going home. As a matter

of fact, many doctors are often late for their own family events, due to unexpected delays at work.

As a matter of fact, many doctors are often late for their own family events, due to unexpected delays at work.

Of course, we can do better.

I try not to fix appointments with too many patients, as emergencies could crop up unexpectedly. I also call other doctors for help when I cannot attend to my patients on time.

I hope the public can understand the system of healthcare and continue to be understanding to their doctors.

Desmond Wai (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2017, with the headline 'Unpredictable schedules part of a doctor's job'. Print Edition | Subscribe