(function() { (function(){function b(g){this.t={};this.tick=function(h,m,f){var n=void 0!=f?f:(new Date).getTime();this.t[h]=[n,m];if(void 0==f)try{window.console.timeStamp("CSI/"+h)}catch(q){}};this.getStartTickTime=function(){return this.t.start[0]};this.tick("start",null,g)}var a;if(window.performance)var e=(a=window.performance.timing)&&a.responseStart;var p=0=c&&(window.jstiming.srt=e-c)}if(a){var d=window.jstiming.load; 0=c&&(d.tick("_wtsrt",void 0,c),d.tick("wtsrt_","_wtsrt",e),d.tick("tbsd_","wtsrt_"))}try{a=null,window.chrome&&window.chrome.csi&&(a=Math.floor(window.chrome.csi().pageT),d&&0=b&&window.jstiming.load.tick("aft")};var k=!1;function l(){k||(k=!0,window.jstiming.load.tick("firstScrollTime"))}window.addEventListener?window.addEventListener("scroll",l,!1):window.attachEvent("onscroll",l); })();

M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Excerpt #47: Tolerating VIP Visitors

Excerpt # 47:  Tolerating VIP Visitors

As a junior consultant surgeon, Dr. Bhattal being the senior one, I did not get many VIP patients except those who came through the Casualty Room. I was thus spared many potential faux pas as I did not know the local top honchos and the associated social status symbols or protocols.

One weekend I admitted a woman who had been through a non-fatal car accident. She had soft tissue mild whiplash injury to her neck. The next day her brother came and demanded to see the “doctor in charge,” me, right away. Yes, demanded! I overheard his conversation with the nurse as I was making rounds at that time. Earlier I was aware of his presence by the loud steps of his leather shoes announcing his arrival.

The nurse, sufficiently intimidated by the man’s expensive three-piece suit and attitude, brought him to me right away. I introduced myself and reaffirmed that I was his sister’s doctor. He however, did not reciprocate by introducing himself. One of the things I learned early in Malaysia was that VIPs (even self-professed ones) did not introduce themselves. You ought to know them; they had no need to introduce themselves, a non-verbal expression of social dominance and hierarchy. You however, had to, if nothing else for courtesy sake, which I did. I always introduce myself to my patients, young and old, rich and poor.

         I apprised him of his sister’s condition; soft tissue injury with no fractures or nerve involvement. She should expect only some mild neck stiffness. Instead of being pleased with my excellent prognosis, he wanted her transferred to GHKL right away.

         That was music to my ears. I had wanted to discharge her earlier but she refused, insisting that she needed a longer stay. Now with this request, I instructed the nurse to go ahead with the transfer arrangements. She came back telling me that no ambulance would be available for a couple of days. The VIP brother would not accept that.

         I enquired what car he was driving. He felt offended by my query and replied in a huff, “Mercedes SEL 450!” Top of the line, provided by a generous government. I should have known!

         I then told him that a ride in his Mercedes would be much more comfortable than with the government’s cargo-model ambulance. Yes, the sister would be safe to be transported without a nurse. He warned me that I would be held responsible should anything untoward were to happen to his sister on the trip. I assured him that she would be fine … as long he was careful with his driving!

         I knew of that VIP but had never met him. I recognized Tan Sri Arshad Ayob from his many pictures in the papers. He was a prominent educator and one of the first few Malays to have a science degree back in the early 1950s, after an initial setback when he failed his first year in Singapore. To his credit, he did not take that as a measure of his self-worth. Undeterred, he transferred to the Agricultural College in Serdang for a diploma course, and from there to a British university.

         We had more than our share of VIP visitors in JB. It was a popular destination for federal bureaucrats. One of my first was the new Director-General, Dr. Raja Ahmad Nordin, the top professional in the ministry. A public health expert (MPH Berkeley), he had just taken over from the legendary Tan Sri Majid Ismail, an accomplished orthopedic surgeon turned policymaker. At that time GHJB had a rash of negative publicities, and he was out to prove his mettle as an executive as well as to “show the flag.” Being new, I was nervous about this scrutiny from the very top. I was expecting some tough questioning. My more seasoned colleagues however, were not at all perturbed.

         Whenever we had or even only anticipated important visitors, the whole hospital would be mobilized–and paralyzed–to welcome him (always a him when I was there). The whole day would be a washout, a major disruption to our busy schedules.

         As usual, this top honcho came in late, very late. As the chauffeured black limousine finally drove up to the hospital’s entrance porch, the medical director rushed out to open the car’s rear door. Out came a short, balding man in his dark (always dark) ill-fitting locally-tailored suit, smiling like a comedian trying to be serious. Or was it a serious character trying to be funny? We were lined up to greet and be introduced one by one to him, as was the custom. What with the obligatory fawning welcoming remarks by locals who considered themselves equally important, by the time we finished it was already close to lunch time. After a perfunctory walk in the wards, we retreated to the nearby golf club for a sumptuous lunch, and again the speeches. Not a bad bargain for a free generous lunch.

         The only problem was that after such a big lunch you were predisposed to siesta. Fortunately, Thursday was a half-day in Johore, so your workweek was done. Then I realized why Thursday was the favorite for federal officials to visit JB. They would then be free to jaunt over the causeway to Singapore for their early weekend shopping.

         Later in the year we had another VIP visit, this time from the minister himself, Mr. Chong Hon Nyan. A former top civil servant in the Finance Ministry, considered the most prestigious among the mandarins, he was enticed into politics by Tun Razak. Chong’s visit was even briefer. He made no pretense of doing any business. He stopped by just to satisfy the “General Orders” that he was indeed on government business and then he was off to a local branch meeting of his party. There was to be a general election in a few months.

         There would be many other and even more important as well as consequential (at least to us, the hosts) visitors later on, but those titillating details will have to wait.


Post a Comment

<< Home