By Shifa Al Quda Translated by Estevan Sanchez
The hour reached 12 PM of February first. I did not think that I would receive a call like the one I did that day. Mr. Mohammad Shamma requested of me to work on a report regarding resident doctors in private hospitals. At first I didn’t believe it to be true. A call like this would reconnect me to journalism and the field of in depth reporting; especially since the idea enticed me before. I needed cases that faced violations and it was my friend Rameen, from JHR, who helped me make this possible.
On the fourteenth of the same month Rameen contacted me again to inform me of doctors who were able to speak without exposing their personal identities or being mentioned. I did not expect that I would be provided with their names this quickly, but I felt grateful. There are many topics that we would like to bring to light, but the lack of access to the victims prevents us. That was a help for a starting journalist who aimed to build sources.
In the evening, five doctors’ numbers without names had reached me. Oddley, It appeared nice and attracting. I called the first doctor. He did not take long to answer, flexible and cooperative in giving me the information that I needed. After that we exchanged some side conversations about the work, he said, “The only thing I want from being a doctor is to perform nerve surgery.” His belief and what his dream rested on motivated me powerfully to continue the report that I had undertaken to complete. We spoke for a half an hour, and he encouraged me to follow up on completing it. The second doctor appeared even more enthusiastic. He invited me to his house, and indicated his intention to invite a number of resident doctors. We determined the meeting date. I visited him accompanied by a friend, and we spoke for two hours and a half. Throughout this time he provided me with documents and important information. Seeing I was tied to a permanent job it was necessary for me to contact my sources via phone as long as this did not affect them or me; especially because I wanted to complete the report as soon as possible due to the doctors’ suffering, my wish was to convey their issues which commanded over me.
I tried to contact the third doctor who did not respond. I found myself in an embarrassing position with the fourth, who laughed sarcastically during his interview with me, “I don’t know if they told you, but I finished my residency eight months before, praise God.” Despite my lack of knowledge about this, I needed to listen to what he had to say. We spoke for eighteen minutes, helping me reach ideas for another report.
The fifth doctor stipulated limited times to speak. I contacted him and he did not respond. Maybe he decided to back out, or maybe he had no time even though I trust that those who desired to convey their issue would make time for us; the opposite of the third doctor who I called again after some time given his unique situation. I was not in the wrong as all of them are unique in their own way.
The doctors’ belief in journalism provided me the determination to continue as long as I heard the expression, “What will you change?” or “This will be of no benefit.” The situation was tragic, the existence of individuals who believed in your message and what you desire. It does not belittle your work’s importance and what you do. Truly, belief creates miracles.
It remained necessary for me to encounter those interested in what I had reached. I contacted the doctors’ shop steward, expecting to discover additional information; however, he answered just general inquiries and advised me to connect with the Jordanian Medical Council and the Ministry of Labor. So I turned to the Ministry of Labor that tried to evade answering and postponed phone meetings repeatedly. They feigned ignorance to direct questions and inquiry, and it became clear after a while that there was neglect over the issues pertaining to resident doctors who were not subject to work, as according to their contracts which proved incompatible with the ministry’s laws and clauses.
After that I contacted the general secretary of the Jordanian Medical Council who determined another meeting to contact him in order to provide me with the information that I had requested. I connected with the Association of Private Hospitals’ chairman, who opposed the idea that a resident doctor’s salary was 400 Dinar (Approx. 561 USD), hanging up the phone stirred up while I was speaking to him. The thing that bothered me was that dealing with everyone who before had resisted your information, making you feel as “something” of value. I tried to reconnect with him, but it was futile.
I called the Medical Council Secretary during the agreed meeting time, but he did not respond. So I sent him questions through Whatsapp in order for him to respond with summarized answers. Due to the lack of responses I was receiving, and my wish to obtain numbers which would help my report, I returned to asking questions via Whatsapp. I contacted the council to put me in touch with the office administrator who requested an official document from my organization in order to be supplied with the information. I carried out that requested, and they kept delaying their response.
I waited four days and there turned out to be a statement on their website indicating that this was the maximum duration one would wait for a response, despite that I had attempted throughout that period to contact the office administrator who continued to to ignore me. During my pursuit I contacted the secretary, who said to me, “Is it not enough that I already answer your calls!” You human rights advocates only pursue your interests. I am free to answer, and I will take my time in doing so.” However, despite him notifying us of his need to respond he ignored the topic. I informed him that I would publish the information that I had and he threatened me with a lawsuit.
As a matter of fact, the situation was not good seeing as I had not received any information. I postponed the report for a week which continued to be difficult for me. The last person that was able to provide me with information was the Association of Private Hospitals’ chairman. This is where the conflict inside of me had begun. How could I return to him, especially since I had refused decisively the feeling of helplessness in order to reach the information. More precisely to abandon those who I had worked with that looked forward to a good report being accomplished. This is what pained and exhausted me. I hoped for a miracle to happen so that I could get the information. I contacted the Ministry of Health that confirmed its lack of availability, so I returned to contacting the Doctor’s Union who asked for a period of two days to provide the necessary information through email.
I asked my close friends. One of them knew association’s chairman and we tried to contact him but he did not respond. In my good fortune he contacted me at night. It was not possible for us as “journalists” or me as a “remedy” to not forget with ease the source who did not cooperate. On the contrary it was him who appeared to have forgotten or maybe because at the time I had used the name of my organization “JHR” and it was beyond a doubt that the report was one.
After four minutes I had obtained the information. I did not expect it to be this easy. He was truly proactive with sarcasm. As long as they possessed the information, why did they not take it upon themselves to provide us with it or publish it on their website as they are nothing but general hospital numbers. Those numbers which I did not find in any doctors’ union report, ministry, or the department of health. My second disappointment was in publishing the report as the daily newspapers rejected to publish it when it went against their interests. This is common for a journalist and it was annoying for those like me who wished to convey their message to the most people. Mr. Shamma and “JHR” would help me with this matter, in addition to my friends who did not hesitate in participating, to agree to publish the report through their page on Sunday. I was surprised by this in depth report regarding resident doctors in health sector which would be suitable for another organization. It was very frustrating for me. I felt a real paint in my heart. I cried. I wanted to receive a writing award, and put light on their issues as the first journalists to do so. I did not know if it was a selfish desire, but I wanted that. It hurt me that another journalist had preceded me at the time my story was ready. I did not find an escape from facing the situation.
We published the report on the tenth of March with a number of people who had participated: releasing records, the Ministry of Work’s evasion, dealing with the council, the position of the association, the moments and disappointments I had experienced throughout completing the report. All of this aligned to give life to the stories that were written. I wanted the people to know that they were ruled, that their messages had been received, and that the true message had been brought to the press. We found ourselves narrating these peoples’ stories by publishing the report. I remained ignited to start a another new phase, and the words of my friend accompany me, “Be confident in yourself. You can do it.”
If death is inevitable, let us die as friends of journalism’s true message. Despite all of the difficulties and disappointments, we must live and transmit those stories. This is what I believed in the end. To reading Shifa Al Qidaa’s report, follow the link :
*The journalist works on the news website of today’s events.