I took an unusual step two days ago. I started a petition against Discovery Health, the administrators of Discovery Medical Aid. I have good reason to be angry, but it seems being angry, as I and so many other doctors, dentists and other health professionals are, is not enough.

I am fighting for the right to control my own destiny in my own profession, not one that some outsider has decided for me. I fight also for my patients who pay high premiums to medical aids and who receive conditional benefits in return. I think their money has been misspent by administrators like Discovery, and I am asking all who have an interest to call them to task.

One would think, taking into consideration a summary of my career thus far as fairly typical of the average fifty year old South African doctor, that …

… after six years of intensive study, hundreds of hours of examinations, work experience in six hospitals, eight or so Christmas Days, and eight New Year’s Days and many special holidays on duty, missed childrens’ birthday parties and family celebrations, several hundred happy live baby deliveries, and sadly several stillborn babies, dozens of caesarean sections, thousands of stitches put into wounded people in busy casualties, being abused and spat on by drunk patients, seeing friends die from terrible diseases while powerless to intervene, performing post-mortems on people I knew and on complete strangers, going to homes to break tragic news to relatives, treating crocodile, leopard and snake bits, malaria, bubonic plague, giving medical testimony in court at least a dozen times, counselling marriages and drug addictions, five more years of trying to balance training, career and family, more examinations, hours of study, the staggering success of curing ill patients, and the bitter loss of losing them, hundreds of resuscitations, closed and open cardiac massage, two years of work experience on three continents, 20 000 surgical procedures, a million consultations, a million prescriptions, millions paid in malpractice insurance and a clean litigation record, the searing agony of serious complications and the thrill of a difficult surgery succeeding, after 10000 private patients and the setting up of a fine model of public-private participation … and doing what I do to the best of my ability…

… that medical advisers, technocrats and bureaucrats would give me the right to decide what is best to offer my own patients, and to determine for myself the value of those services. I think I’ve earned it.

Sadly not. Discovery (and many other medical administrators) certainly do not think so, and Discovery’s ‘staggering success’ (their own words) in the past financial year – during which things have become progressively harder for health service providers and consumers alike – is a bitter pill to swallow.

There is only one way to counter a company that sees no need to change a system which, although dysfunctional, is clearly working for them “staggeringly well”, and that is to challenge them and call them to account in a public manner.

And that is why I have started this petition. It could go both ways. There could be very little interest, whereupon I will shut my mouth, acknowledge defeat, and probably turn and swim with the tide just to survive. Or there could be a campaign that goes viral and demands that medical administrator executives be held accountable for the limitations they place on clients while enriching themselves.

The determinative factor is whether you, the reader, choose to sign the petition or not.

If not, please don’t complain to me about doctors or medical aids in the future. Having done my best and failed, I will no longer be interested.



Martin Young

Martin Young is an ENT surgeon living an idyllic life in Knysna. He is a firm believer that "the unexamined life is not worth living", writes for a hobby and is happy to speak truth to power www.drmartinyoung.com...

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