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Wednesday April 17, 2024

Doctors, journalists confer on ways to improve health reporting

By M. Waqar Bhatti
March 01, 2022

Healthcare professionals at an interactive session on Sunday urged the print and electronic media journalists covering health issues to follow the ethics of journalism, publish and air verified news, and enhance their capacity and understanding of health issues to report accurately, without hurting the sentiments of healthcare professionals, patients and their attendants.

On the other hand, conceding their limited capacity to report on health and science issues, media persons advised the healthcare professionals to be available to media whenever possible, try not to hide things and give them information so that they could report accurately instead of getting misinformed by unreliable sources.

The session titled ‘How Doctors Should Manage the Media’ was part of the 18th Biennial International Scientific Conference of Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Pakistan (SOGP), which was attended by hundreds of healthcare professionals, medical students and other allied health professionals at a hotel.

The interactive session was moderated by journalist Zofeen Ibrahim, while the panellists included Dr Seemin Jamali, former executive director of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Dr Samrina Hashmi, a former leader of the Pakistan Medical Association, Dr Ali Madeeh Hashmi, a psychiatrist from King Edward Medical University, Lahore, and M. Waqar Bhatti, health journalist associated with The News International, Karachi.

Senior SOGP office-bearers, including Dr Razia Korejo, Dr Sadiah Ahsan Pal, renowned endocrinologist Prof Tasneem Ahsan and Prof Shabeen Naz Masood, were also present. Responding to queries, Dr Seemin Jamali said she too faced criticism and disinformation when she was heading the JPMC, which often made her depressed despite the fact that she was always available to media personnel and tried to answer their questions whenever it was possible for her.

“My husband was battling for life due to Covid-19 and I too was sick, but we were subjected to criticism. Some of the health journalists always want to report negative things, while there are others who report positive things and don’t report anything without verifying things first,” she said and advised healthcare professionals to answer questions form media as much as possible as they too had jobs to perform.

She also highlighted wrongdoings on part of healthcare professionals, who sent patients from public health facilities to private hospitals, saying such tactics earned a bad name for the whole medical community and result in the bashing of healthcare professionals by the media.

Dr Samrina Hashmi was of the opinion that media persons should follow ethics and respect the rights of healthcare professionals, patients and their attendants, saying no doctor or healthcare professional wanted to hurt their patients.

“It is very unfortunate to say that negligence of doctors led to deaths of their patients. Thousands of patients are treated by healthcare professionals on a daily basis and most of them get cured and go back to their homes,” she said, adding that it was not the job of some media persons to accuse doctors and other staff of negligence, which often resulted in violence against them by attendants of patients.

M. Waqar Bhatti from The News International Karachi, while conceding that most health journalists did not have the capacity to report on health and science issues, urged the healthcare professionals to remain in touch with health journalists, try to provide them accurate information and highlight issues on which they should write and make reports on a regular basis.

“Filing and giving news is my job which help me in earning my bread and butter. I have to file news stories on daily basis. If a journalist gets information from the horse’s mouth, he or she try to get it from other unreliable sources, who sometimes feed them wrong or misleading information”, he said and added that in order to enhance the capacity of the health journalists, he was arranging training and capacity-building workshops throughout the country.

Psychiatrist Dr Ali Madeeh Hashmi, who is also a grandson of the legendary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, gave a presentation on the use of social media platforms by the healthcare professionals and urged doctors not to respond to queries and comments of people on social media. He also recited a poem of his grandfather Faiz Ahmed Faiz at the end of the session.

Another eminent journalist and writer, Shaukat Javed, also called for the capacity building of the health journalists, saying they often misinterpreted scientific information and reported inaccurately in the mainstream print and electronic media.