Sunday, April 3, 2016

Health Care Military Style – Doctor at Sea


Health Care Military Style – Part 2 

Continued from Part 1 – “DOC DANEEKA” STYLE HEALTH-CARE

A Spoof

In the Defence Services  once you join a particular service  you remain in that service.

If you join the Army  you remain in the Army.

If you join the Navy  you remain in the Navy.

And  if you join the Air Force  you remain in the Air Force.

Yes  I have seen some grounded air force flight cadets  who are unable to fly – being sometimes sent to the navy or army.

But  once you are commissioned as an officer  you cannot change the colour of your uniform.

The only exceptions are Military Doctors – officers of the Army Medical Corps (AMC) – who often change the colour of their uniform  like chameleons.

I have seen doctors being transferred from the Army to the Navy  and vice versa – and maybe it happens with Air Force Doctors too – strictly speaking there are no “Air Force Doctors” or “Navy Doctors” since all doctors belong to the Army Medical Corps (AMC).

Let me tell you a story about a landlubber “pongo” doctor in Olive Green (OG) who was suddenly transferred to the navy and found himself all at sea.

This happened long back  39 years ago  in the late 1970’s.

Our ship was not a capital ship  but a frigate.

However  she was a “top heavy” ship  since she was designated as “squadron ship”.

Sister ships of her class were commanded by a Commander  and had Lieutenant Commanders as Heads of Executive, Engineering, Electrical and Supply Departments  and young Lieutenants as specialist departmental officers.

However  our ship  being the “squadron ship” – had a senior Captain in command  a Commander (E) and Commander (L) [squadron Engineer Officer (EO) and squadron Electrical Officer (LO)]  and an extra Education Officer (Lieutenant Commander).

However  the second-in-command  the Executive Officer (XO)  was a Lieutenant Commander  and this caused some friction as EO and LO outranked him.

And  we had a young Medical Officer who was a Surgeon Lieutenant.

One day  the young Surgeon Lieutenant was transferred out to do a Post Graduate (PG) course  and for some time  there was no replacement.

A few days later  just as we were about to cast off to sea  a portly middle-aged gentleman arrived at the gangway.

He was in civilian clothes.

He proclaimed to the OOD that he was the new Medical Officer.

The OOD asked a sailor to take the gentleman to the Sick Bay  and  meanwhile – the OOD informed the XO – and he also told the stewards to get the Medical Officer’s Cabin ship shape.

Later  when the ship was underway  the XO approached the Captain on the bridge: “Sir  the new Medical Officer has reported on board.”

“The new Doc has come? I did not see any appointment letter in the mail,” the Captain said.

“Sir  he has brought his appointment letter by hand – he has come from the Army.”


“Sir  he has been transferred to the Navy on promotion to Surgeon Commander rank.”

“Surgeon Commander...?”

“Sir  have a look at his date of commission – he must have been quite a senior Major – I wonder why they moved him from the Army to the Navy...” the XO said.

The Captain looked at the papers  and he said, “Bloody hell – we have one more headache now – Commander (E)  Commander (L)  and now a bloody Doc who is a Commander. The ship is getting so top-heavy – we may just topple topsy turvy...

“Yes Sir  as a Squadron Ship  we have too many passengers – all these Commanders  and a ‘Schoolie’ too...” the XO said.

“Where the hell is this new Doc?” the Captain asked.

“Sir  he is violently sea-sick...” the XO said.

“Sea Sick...? In this weather...? The sea is hardly rough...” the Captain remarked.

“Sir  he is a “pongo” – maybe he is not used to it – I think it is his first time on a ship. Shall I get him to your cabin when you go down, Sir...?” the XO asked.

“No. Let him find his bearings. I will see him later...” the Captain said.

Dear Reader – if you are wondering how this “pongo” Doctor got posted to our ship – this is what had happened...

In his previous appointment in a Military Hospital  this Army Medical Officer (let us call him “M” who was more of an administrator than a doctor  was considered a pain in the arse  and his boss and his colleagues wanted him out.

They repeatedly complained to the “powers-that-be” to post “M” out of the hospital  but M’s reputation was so bad – that no other hospital in the Army wanted him.

So  when the opportunity came  the “powers-that-be” transferred “M” to the Navy  and when he protested  they told him that there was no vacancy of Lt Col in the Army  and  if he wanted to get promoted  he had to go to the Navy.

So – “M”reluctantly came to the navy.

Unfortunately  his reputation had preceded him in Navy medical circles too  so they shunted “M” off to a ship  rather than suffer him in a Navy Hospital.

So – our ship’s new medical officer “M” was extremely unhappy on board the ship.

First  he had the harrowing experience of seasickness.

Secondly  he was very piqued at the way he was being treated on board ship despite his service seniority and rank.

“M” was peeved because the other two Commanders  “E” and “L”  the two Lieutenant Commanders  the XO and the Supply Officer  and even the Navigating Officer (NO)  who was a mere Lieutenant  had better cabins than him  whereas he was consigned to a suffocating cabin in the Lieutenants’ Cabin Flat  which reeked of the nauseating smell of FFO (Furnace Fuel Oil).

His request for a change of cabin to one of the above good cabins was denied  stating that they were marked cabins for respective appointments.

The Captain candidly told “M” that normally a young Surgeon Lieutenant was posted on board this ship as Medical Officer (MO) – and so  a small cabin had been earmarked for the MO – and he could not change it – as cabins for Department Heads were specified.

To add insult to the injury  the XO bluntly remarked that they would have been happier with a younger Medical Officer  but now that “M” was posted on board  “M” would have to make do with the same facilities as the earlier medical officer.

M’s family had not joined him  since he had retained accommodation in previous station – so  “M” had to live on board ship 24/7  even when the ship was in harbour.

His request for a cabin in the luxurious Navy Officers Mess was turned down since ship’s officers were required to live on board their respective ships.

“M” was also upset that no one gave him any importance on the ship  unlike in the Army  where a medical officer is treated with reverence in the unit.

“M” would vent his frustrations by smoking furiously throughout the day  and drinking sorrowfully in the evenings.

“M” particularly hated the XO  who  despite being a rank lower  tried to boss over him – because – technically  the Medical Officer was subordinate to the XO in the ship’s hierarchy.

Finally  after a long wait  “M” had his revenge.

It was December – time for the Annual Medical Examination (AME).

Earlier  this AME was quite an informal affair.

But “M”  who was a better administrator than doctor  decided to go by the book.

So “M” promulgated the AME roster giving dates for Annual Medical Examination (AME) department-wise.

On the promulgated day  the XO reported to “M” in the sickbay for his Annual Medical Examination.

“M” asked the XO to strip and lie down  and then “M” thoroughly examined the XO with a stethoscope.

“M” then filled up a few forms.

As the XO was buttoning up his uniform  “M” gave him the forms  and said matter-of-factly: “You have got Heart Murmur.”

“Heart Murmur?” the XO asked, bewildered.

“Yes. You will have to get admitted to hospital  get some tests done  and undergo a detailed examination performed by the specialist,” said “M” to the XO.

“You want me to be admitted to hospital...? But – nothing is wrong with me – I am absolutely fit – I just won the navy squash championship…” the XO protested anxiously.

“Why are you getting excited...? It looks like you have hypertension too...!” the doctor “M” said to the bewildered XO.

“Can you please check me again...? I am sure that nothing is wrong with me and I am absolutely fit. I do not want to get admitted to hospital. I am in promotion zone – my promotion board is scheduled in a few months – and you never know – if I get admitted to hospital  those specialist doctors may lower my medical category...” the XO pleaded to “M”.

“M” was happy to see that XO was getting panicky  so to drive home his point  “M”said triumphantly: “Of course  they will lower your medical category – heart murmur is a serious matter – you can even get a heart attack – your health is more important than your career – yes  for a heart condition they will permanently lower your medical category…”

The XO got so rattled and panic-stricken on hearing these words  that it seemed the XO would have an actual heart attack  there and then.

On seeing the XO’s jittery condition  “M” asked him to lie down  and told the Medical Assistant to ask the OOD to summon an ambulance.

And to prove that he was not being vindictive to the XO – his bête noir – and to display his sense of fairness – “M” declared that the other two officers  who had reported for Annual Medical Examination  also had Heart Murmur.

And so – along with the XO  “M” referred these two officers also for hospitalization and further tests and examinations by the specialists.

When the OOD informed the Captain that the XO and two officers were being sent to hospital  he was livid.

“We are under sailing orders. I cannot have my XO and two of my key officers in hospital...” the Captain told “M”.

But “M” threw the book at him  and when the Captain called up some higher-ups to protest  the Captain was firmly told that  in medical matters  the decision of the Medical Officer would prevail.

The Captain was advised to do as his Medical Officer recommended.

They told the Captain that – of course  if the Captain wanted  he could always speak directly to the specialist doctors in the hospital.

So  the XO and the two Lieutenants were on their way in an ambulance to the Naval Hospital to get checked up for Heart Murmur.

The XO had broken out into a sweat – panic-stricken and scared at his uncertain future.

He was terrified that his medical category might be lowered  and Low Medical Category (LMC) would put an end to his dreams of becoming an Admiral  which was his whole and sole aim  ever since he joined the Academy as a Cadet.

The two Lieutenants seemed unconcerned and they tried to cheer up the XO: “Sir, don’t worry. This pongo bugger is a quack. Nothing is wrong with us. What is the harm in getting all the tests done free of cost? We will have a nice time in hospital – we need some relaxation after all this hectic sailing – in the evenings we will enjoy in the club – and after a few days we will come back all refreshed and rejuvenated.”

In fact  the two Lieutenants were looking forward to some R&R in hospital.

But  their hopes were dashed.

While the ambulance was moving towards the hospital – at the same time  phones were ringing  and their Captain was desperately talking to the Medical Specialist, the Heart Specialist and other Medical powers-that-be.

When the XO and two Lieutenants reached the hospital for admission  they were instead told to go first to the Medical Specialist.

The Medical Specialist was a classmate of “M” during MBBS.

He knew that although “M” had somehow managed to pass his medical exams  “M” he had absolutely zero acumen to be a good doctor.

The specialist had also heard about “M” on the AMC grapevine.

The specialist smiled to himself.

“M” was truly a “doctor at sea” – literally and figuratively.

Yes  the Medical Specialist said to himself  “M” was a “Quack” at Sea.

Well aware of the medical incompetence of “M”  the Medical Specialist was inclined to declare all the 3 officers medically fit even without examining them.

The Medical Specialist noticed that whereas the XO seemed anxious  the two Lieutenants looked unconcerned and carefree.

The specialist examined all three officers with his stethoscope.

“Nothing is wrong with you guys,” the specialist said, “take the day off – all of you can go home and relax – then come and see me first thing tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock.”

Next morning  the Medical Specialist took an ECG  and then – he declared all three officers fit.

Other officers on the ship waited till “M” went on leave – and then they got their Annual Medical Examination (AME) done on other ships.

When “M” returned  the ship’s officers made life hell for “M” 

So – “M” spent most of his time sulking in his cabin  while his Medical Assistant ran the show from the sickbay.

Mercifully  “M” was transferred out to the Station Health Organization (SHO)  where he could happily demonstrate his administrative skills supervising hygiene inspections and sanitation management in the cantonment.

His replacement on board ship was a young Surgeon Lieutenant who was an excellent doctor.

As they say: All’s well that ends well

To be continued in Part 3...

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1. This story is a spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh. 
2All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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