Weaver Shell | Valencia (EFE) to choose: it is “an art of caring” for the sick, whom he sees as his “second family”.
Catalá has just received an award with the eighth Prize for the Best Professional Career of Rural Doctor granted by the Foundation of the College of Physicians of Valencia, together with the Valencia Provincial Council, in recognition of the work he has developed, especially in rural areas, for some time more than 45 years.
Medical career in four towns
His medical career, developed over two years in Pedralba, seven in Bélgida, four in Fortaleny and 32 in Carcaixent, has been linked to the families and patients of these Valencian municipalities, whom he has seen grow, has accompanied throughout his life and with whom he has shared much more than a medical history.
At the age of 24 and when he was released from the “military” because his mother was a widow, he began as a rural doctor in Pedralba, a town that then had just over 2,000 inhabitants. Since there was no house for the doctor, he rented a small office to attend to the patients and, since he did not have a car, he would travel by bus or a neighbor would take him when there was an emergency or delivery.
“We did some autopsy, every month we attended one or two deliveries or they required us due to road accidents,” Catalá explained to EFE, who recalls the “leisure times” he had, especially in spring and summer, with the vet and the pharmacist in the “clean and crystalline waters of the Turia river”.
As anecdotes, he recalls that in his first birth, the father of the newborn came to his house “all proud” to give him “a chicken”, or that in 1971 there was a case of cholera in the Nalón river basin and they were ordered to chlorinate the water from the reservoir, which was seven kilometers from the town.
The fundamental doctor-patient pairing
Asked if he believes that rural medicine is “the essence of medicine”, he affirms that it was and is “the repository of traditional medicine”. “It is an art -he points out-, a medical knowledge, and the diagnosis is the result of reasoning”.
After underlining the “love” that a rural doctor feels for his patients, who is “completely dedicated to his profession”, he points out that one must “know how to distinguish between physical pain – from kidney colic or a broken bone – with the internal suffering of the person”.
Rural and primary medicine “embodies the tripod of serving our neighbor, the sick, society and above all our conscience. It is based on curing, relieving and consoling”, asserts Catalá, who considers that the doctor-patient relationship is “fundamental” and “the trust of the patient, which should last a lifetime, must be conquered”.
“You had to talk to the patient, reassure him, and more so at a time when we were totally isolated, there were no mobile phones or technical means, and even the systems to explore the patient had to be bought,” he recalls.
Rural medicine, the great sacrifice
He sees rural medicine as “the great sacrifice, there are 24 hours a day, 365 days a year”, and he remembers that he spent twenty years “day and night on call because there were no substitute doctors” and the statutory vacations were paid according to the legal statute of the personnel Social Security doctor, but there was no fixed amount according to the number of cards, “and that -he recalls- was disappointing”.
But despite these difficulties, he assures that today he would “choose again” both rural primary medicine and health center primary medicine, because the patients are like a “second family” for him.
“You suffer from illnesses and you become respectful friends and there is better treatment, but -according to EFE- to harvest you have to sow and with the stress that exists today it is difficult if you do not dedicate more hours.”
The stress of the doctor
“The patient has always been respectful, so what happens now did not happen and all because of the stress acquired in the consultation,” says Catalá, who claims the figure of the clinical assistant, help to fill out the medical history and write prescriptions that would allow the doctor more time to recognize the patient. “The doctor could look the patient in the face,” she says.
In his opinion, currently students who finish their degree do not choose Family Medicine due to the “existing overcrowding, excessive and unnecessary bureaucracy, the lack of annual oppositions and transfer competitions or the lack of job stability.”
Catalá has also dedicated a large part of his life to the scientific society SEMER (currently Semergen), which he came to preside at the national level for a decade, a period that served him to tour Spain and manage to bring together the majority of rural doctors in the country. , who in those years were completely isolated and alone.
He also highlights the “great friendship” he had with the then Minister of Health Ernest Lluch, who asked them for ideas and suggestions to include them in the draft of the General Health Law.