By Dato’ Dr. N.Parameswaran
I am writing this article as a series of anecdotes, sometimes disjointed, as I rack my ageing memory to recall incidents that took place some fifty years ago. I am hoping it will give some insight to the younger doctors, of the ‘trials and tribulations’ I faced as I attempted to set up the first Paediatric Unit in the East Coast, in Kelantan.
After passing the M.R.C.P Paed. exam in early 1968, I managed to get a posting at the Hammersmith Hospital, London, with Professor Tizzard. He first started me on a research project , and following this, he wanted me to do a term in neonatology. I applied to the Ministry to extend my stay in U.K for a further six months , but this request was turned down and I was instructed to return once my two year term ended. Before I left for Malaya, Prof.Tizzard, who was disappointed with the Ministry’s decision, gave me a letter, addressed to the Director of Medical Services, strongly recommending that I be allowed to join the Faculty of Medicine to pursue my interest in research and an academic career. When I produced this letter at the Ministry, the Director turned down this request. He insisted that as I had gone to U.K on a government scholarship, I would have to the serve out my seven year contract with the Ministry of Health. He also informed me that the country was acutely short of paediatricians.
I was posted to Ipoh, on October 1968, as the second Paediatrician, to work with Dato Dr. Pathmanathan. Incidentally he was my registrar in Penang in 1960. I was enjoying this posting, when I got a letter from the Ministry of Health, informing me that I had been reposted to Kota Bahru. It was Feb.1969. I was totally devastated when I got this letter of transfer, as I had always dreaded an east-coast posting. My efforts to work my way out of this posting was not successful.
I left my daughter with my in-laws in Alor Star, and proceeded with my wife in my new Toyota Corolla for the long drive to Kelantan. The Alor Star – K.L. leg was pleasant but the drive along the Karak Highway was a nightmare. The timber lorries made every effort to run me off the road. We however managed to arrive in Kuantan safely, but a bit shaken. We decided to have lunch and managed to find a lovely spot, with a beautiful view of the South China Sea. The exquisite east-coast cuisine, and the majestic waves, lashing the white sandy beach, soon settled my nerves. After the delicious lunch we set off for the long drive to Kota Bahru.
This drive was a memorable experience. There was hardly a car on the road and the spectacular beaches of the east-coast made this trip special. As we approached Terengganu and came down the hill we were suddenly mesmerized by the breathtaking beauty of the Kemaman beach.
We arrived in Kota Bahru late in the evening and checked into its ‘premier’ hotel. After tea we decided to take a drive around the town and as we drove, my wife commented that we had not encountered any traffic lights. We were wondering if it was possible that Kota Bahru was a town without traffic lights? We were happy to learn later that there was indeed one set of traffic lights in Kota Bahru!! I also took a drive pass the Kota Bahru General Hospital. It reminded me of a district hospital, like the one in my home town Butterworth, and even though it was not my idea of a General Hospital, I decided I should try to make the most of this posting.
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