Sunday, April 21

Let’s consult the town clerk


NOT every doctor can do counselling. We need a trained clinical psychologist to address the root of the problem and treat the people properly.

We have cases in Sibu. A person suffering from depression is not diagnosed properly or given counselling but was given pills.

Even children were given pills if brought to see the psychiatrist. In many cases, they don’t need pills – only counselling and only clinical psychologists can properly provide it.

The above was quite a hasty reaction from Bukit Assek assemblywoman Irene Chang to Local Government Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian’s statement on the availability of psychiatric help for the mentally ill in the state.

She had, with a hasty blow, slammed Sim as being “irresponsible” for saying doctors could do counselling for mental patients.

Knowing Chang as a personal friend, I was hoping to straighten out the matter before it went to print as her comments were screaming on my computer screen – so loud that it was impossible not to provoke an immediate reaction.

I sent a message to a doctor friend for clarification and comment but the latter who just came back from overseas, was not too sure what I was talking about.

I sought clarification because I am not a medical doctor but I have been informed by a close relative (with mental problems) of the services he had been receiving from a psychiatrist at the Sarawak General Hospital.

Prior to that, he was also seeing psychiatrists in a neighbouring country.

This close relative of mine has shown remarkable improvement, attributing the marked progress to the medical care and professional counselling provided to him.

Unfortunately, I had to let the news item go because of pressing press time and moreover, my doctor friend did not have the full picture to clear my doubts instantaneously.

The good doctor got in touch early the next morning after reading Chang’s statement.

First, he apologised for having had to say Chang as a ADUN had not done her homework and was not really speaking to the point.

“She is so confused or people are making her look so confused,” he remarked.

Affirming what I have heard from my close relative and my interviews with some psychiatrists in my course of work, he said a good psychiatrist could conduct excellent counselling and therapy.

Indeed, that’s what my relative is receiving at SGH.

My doctor friend apologised again before hitting the nail on the head by stating Chang is not in a position to pass judgement on prescribing medicine or otherwise to patients as this is a clinical and professional field.

Chang is a lawyer by profession.

The doctor is of the opinion that Chang’s comments would upset the psychiatrists and medical officers who are doing their “best under constraint.”

He admitted psychiatrists are lacking in the State as a whole.

“Sim was saying we have many doctors to look after psychiatric patients. What Chang should be fighting for is for the whole of Sarawak.

“They are more psychiatrists based in Kuching hospitals – only three in Sibu, one in Bintulu and one or two in Miri to care for the northern zone,” he said, providing some data.

Sim had replied to Chang there were three psychiatrists and 12 psychiatric medical officers in Sibu Hospital to look after 10,673 mentally ill patients.

Chang could also ask what kind of social welfare services and rehab support and care the government is providing to patients and their families outside hospital.

For mental cases, follow-up visits are equally important. As such, are there efforts to ensure these people come back regularly?

What is the ratio between doctors and psychiatric patients? Is there a big disparity? Any programme to transfer doctors from the bigger population of medical practioners in the capital city to the other regions?

My expectations from our YBs are not only Yang Berkerja – I believe both Chang and Sim are working very hard – but learn from this wisdom: Ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly. – Acts 19:36.

These words are not from someone great like Apostle Paul but an unknown clerk in the city of Ephesus. The town clerk, not even named in the Good Book, was able to calm an impending riot.

Commentators have said though this town clerk who is not a Christian, has no spiritual discernment, he has general knowledge and temporal wisdom granted to him through common grace by which we can profit and expand our natural understanding.

Many great leaders have said they are greatly indebted to this town clerk in the 19th chapter of Acts for his advice “not to do things rashly.”

May our YBs have their own team of town clerks whom they can always consult or share with before making any unsubstantiated statements.

Hurting people (such as the psychiatrists and doctors in this case) can be avoided if we show the same caution displayed by the town clerk.

Before making any statements, may our YBs take a lesson from the town clerk – Do nothing rashly!

Then our YBs who are supposed to discuss and resolve matters for the people in DUN, will not have to be expelled and needlessly shout outside the august House.