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Not just a Doctor, a family member
25 August 2015

HCA Hospice Care is dedicated to serve her patients 24 hours, round-the-clock. Doctors are given 3 to 4 on-call duties in a month out of their regular office hours. Dr Naing, a palliative doctor with HCA, received 27 calls in a night on one occasion, yet the requests at odd hours never deters him from pursuing his passion. He continues to share his love for the job.

“In the middle of the night, I had to go down to the patient’s house to sign the CCOD (Certificate of Cause of Death). On a separate night, I was called just to fulfil the request of a patient whose back was itching and wanted a massage,” says Dr Naing, who joked about a retirement job as a masseur.

Dr Naing’s humorous and fun loving personality never fails to bring laughter to his colleagues and lighten the mood in the office. Being in the industry for ten years, he continues to take pride in what he does, encouraging medical workers to share the same pride in the palliative care profession.

Though it may be distressing to deal with the topic of death and revealing a patient’s prognosis, he handles it with love, truthfulness and sensitivity, winning the hearts of his patients.

“We cannot lie about their prognosis. It is difficult. Patients know and they ask why there are surges of pain,” says Dr Naing.

Occasionally, families refuse to tell their loved ones that the doctor from the hospice is here to visit, afraid that it might bring a psychological change and quicken the death process. Dr Naing jokingly rebuts, “Then what do I tell them at their doorstep? I am from Pizza Hut? KFC Delivery? ”

He often found himself caught in family qualms and decisions as well, “We have to take sides within a family dispute and certify patients’ wills as they have no decision power. It is difficult to just stick to our profession.” Often caught in such dilemmas, he stands firm as a medical professional with the ultimate priority in mind – improving the patient’s quality of life.

“The beauty of a home hospice service is that when I see my patients at home, I see the environment and the reality of their lives.” As a home hospice doctor, visits are scheduled according to the patients, unlike a structured hospital, where it depends on the availability of the doctor.

Truth be told, there are many hidden lives in Singapore and Dr Naing feels that it is a privilege to be able to help these people.

“I have lost my trousers many times due to bed bugs in houses of the less fortunate and this is reality,” says Dr Naing, a loving father of two, who ensures that he does not bring the bugs back home.

“We meet people from all walks of life. Sometimes, we are closer to our patients than their families are,” and to Dr Naing, nothing else is as valuable as this. “I had a family who donated all the funds collected during the patient’s funeral to HCA. Such donations mean so much – it tells me that my job is worth it.”

To Dr Naing, money is important but it is not everything. “I may be a medical practitioner but I do not own a car. In fact, I am a public commuter. I own the trains,” he jokes. “I can walk away from this profession, but no, I really do enjoy and find meaning in what I do.”

Doctors are known to heal, cure and deliver. But in a hospice, it is a whole new ball game, patients are faced with limited time. The duty as a doctor changes, they are called to bring quality and not quantity to the remaining life.

“Life cannot be perfect. You can’t get everything you want but to find meaning in life through your profession, that’s where I am,” says Dr Naing.

On an average, 5 patients in HCA passes on each day, the number of deaths the doctors have to face is unimaginable. In palliative home care, it does not stop at the patient’s death, it goes on to provide bereavement support to the whole family, ensuring their well-being.

Our doctors are committed and passionate about their call as a palliative doctor. Drop us an email at communications@hcahospicecare.org.sg if you have any words of encouragement! You may also log on to https://www.hca.org.sg/hospice/volunteers/info-on-volunteerism to be a volunteer and make a change in someone’s life today!

Photo credits: Kerry Cheah