Health Care dumbed down to lowest common Denominator of Cost, warns President of World Medical Association

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A warning that physicians are increasingly expected to act as administrative clerks and accountants and that their professional role is being downgraded to select the least expensive treatment for their patients has come from the new President of the World Medical Association, Dr Kgosi Letlape.

In his presidential address to the WMA's annual Assembly in Santiago, Chile, Dr Letlape declared:

'What is happening is that health care is being dumbed down to the lowest common denominator of cost. Even more importantly, rationing is slowly destroying the art and professional practice of medicine, the patient-physician relationship and patient access to all treatment options.'

Dr Letlape, an ophthalmologist and chairman of the South African Medical Association, said that this trend of 'political considerations denying our patients the most appropriate health care services' was unacceptable.

'We cannot allow politics to stand in the way of effective handling of epidemics or disasters.'

He said that this situation highlighted the fact that physicians needed to become more effective in shaping the health policy environment rather than be shaped by it.

Dr Letlape said that he saw the future role of the WMA as more that of social leaders. Referring to the threat of avian flu, he said:

'We still do not have a fully functional network where physicians and medical associations are directly linked to the World Health Organisation.
The gap in the global public health network, Taiwan, a country with 23 million citizens, has not been addressed yet.

'If avian flu is transmitted from China to Taiwan, as happened with SARS, there are still no formal channels open between the WHO and Taiwan to exchange technical data and provide help.

'Clearly we need to be more vocal as social leaders in making sure that all measures can be taken to include all the peoples of the world in preparing for disasters.'