By now, I have no doubt that everyone has heard about Jeddah’s Black Wednesday. I am sure that everyone has read the reports, seen the pictures and watched the videos that tell of a tragedy which is unparalleled in our city’s history. The city was flooded by the heaviest rain it witness in 3 decades.
The official death count of 109 people including many children and women is a clear underestimation of the actual numbers according to many sources. Hundreds are missing and thousands of homes, stores and vehicles have been gravely damaged.
I’m not going to address the causes of this tragedy that could only be described as shameful and a disgrace in such a country and in such a city with this much potential and available resources. King Abdullah’s recently issued royal decree is everything we need.
If you open any local newspaper you will find at least 10 articles and 10 columnists discussing this incident. However, I want to voice out a personal opinion of mine as a physician that hasn’t been expressed yet by someone else, at least to my knowledge.
On Saturday, December 5, all house officers, residents and senior doctors are supposed to come back to work at KAUH. It’s true that the hospital has been evacuated and there is only a minimal number of patients in the wards and ICU units. However, that does not mean by anyway that we should not come to the hospital.
When reports surfaced that rain is expected during this weekend and on Saturday and Sunday, I’ve been getting calls from many fellow house officers, medical students and family members inquiring about the state of the hospital as I have worked for 2 days there after the crisis. Everyone is scared and fearful for his/her own life which is their given right but I noticed something else.
Many people have been trying to pressure me into not going to the hospital and into not going to my scheduled on-calls. Those include close friends and family members who kept telling me don’t you fear for your life? What if something happened? What if floods happened all over again and you were stuck in the hospital? This past Wednesday when I was on-call there was a small shower of rain there near the hospital at noon and immediately everyone was thinking of going back home and telling me to leave.
Being stuck at the hospital during that time of crisis is where I want to be. Staying at home and being idle doesn’t suit me. My family went crazy when I said I wanted to go to the hospital in the second day after the floods to offer any assistance I can. I would have gone but those I knew within the hospital told me that it’s not easily accessible so I didn’t but I so damn wanted to go.
It is during those times that we, as doctors, should be at hospitals and clinics. We shouldn’t be the first ones to flee the ship when it’s sinking! We shouldn’t abandon our workplaces. I have seen and heard of many fellow doctors who wouldn’t come to work for fear that something might happen using the excuse that there’s nothing to do at the moment. But when something happens and there’s a need for physicians, the hospital will be empty, unprepared and inaccessible because we, the ones who are supposed to help others, decided to help ourselves only. I’m not saying that it is somewhat understandable though.
I guess it’s just a personal choice depending on your own beliefs. You could be the one trying to save lives and to cure the ill albeit the danger or you could be the one fleeing the ship to safety and no one will blame you because it’s your right too.