“Do you need an MC?” has been somewhat in-planted into my daily conversations with patients. MC, which stands for medical certificate, is a piece of paper issued to a patient when he/she is absence from work.
Some doctors in the clinic which I work in even use that as an opening statement when they first meet a patient, instead of the usual “How may I help you today?”. You may find it weird and inappropriate but truth be told, it helps a majority of us to distinguish between a seriously ill patient to a “I’m here because I want the MC” patient.
Here’s an example.
A 19-year old girl walks into the consultation room. Eye-balling her head to toe, the instance she walks in, looking for clues at what her complaints might be. Let me get this straight, it’s eye-balling okay, not ogling. That’s how we were taught in med school. Make up is on. Checked. Mascara present. Checked. Eye lines properly drawn. Checked. Clothed with a tight fitting baby T and a mini pants. Checked. On heels. Checked. Now, tell me, which part of the description itself tells you that she’s actually sick? Would a sick person really go through the effort of being so “pretty” if she’s really sick?
So, the “Do you need an MC?” statement comes into play. Straight to the point and usually the reply is yes. As a medical profession, we have every right to withhold the MC. However, in Singapore, the patients will complain against you since it’s part of their culture. It’s instilled in them since young, I guess. Not to say I mind being complained at. Just ignore them the Malaysian style. (complain ma complain loh..) However, the trouble of dealing with a patient who refuses to leave your room, throws tantrums and adamantly insists for the MC or else she’ll get into trouble with her boss/teacher/etc takes up most of your time. Annoying I know. One patient or two, fair enough. However, approximately 55%-65% of the total number of the patients seen are as such. And within the limited time frame of 10 minutes (that’s the amount of time we’re expected to spend with a patient in view of the large numbers of patients in the clinic each day, which may total up to a 1000). Imagine dealing with 10 of them on a daily basis, how much precious time is lost?
These patients, unfortunately, takes away the time from the patients who are really ill. 5 minutes with the patient mentioned above, could be given to another who really needs it. On the other hand, when a patient declines an MC, most of us would put an extra effort into that patient, knowing that patient came because he/she really needed help.
Rant for the new year!
So, do you need an MC today?