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14 June, 2019
Doctors across the country on strike to protest against assault also call for stringent law to act as a deterrence against the violence.
New Delhi: Doctors across the country are showing solidarity with their counterparts in West Bengal where junior doctors are on strike for the fourth consecutive day Friday. The strike was called Tuesday after relatives of a patient assaulted two junior doctors at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata.
But more than angry relatives, a number of doctors are blaming inadequate infrastructure and the lack of medical professionals for the growing instances of doctors being attacked in government hospitals.
“Doctors in government hospitals juggle between surgeries, outpatient duty (OPD) and handling emergencies,” said Dr S. Acharya of the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi. “A patient’s family will, of course, not consider this because the life of their loved one is at stake. It is the government’s responsibility to increase manpower and ensure better infrastructure in hospitals.”
Acharya added that since government hospital doctors have to handle a number of duties, it gives them little time to communicate with a patient’s family, which, he says, increases mistrust. “This leads patient’s family to believe that the doctor is arrogant,” Acharya said.
The numbers back this argument. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the ideal doctor-population ratio is 1:1,000 — that is, a doctor for every 1,000 people.
In India, however, the doctor-patient ratio for modern medicine is 1:1,596.
The Medical Council of India (MCI) says 10.2 lakh doctors are registered with its state branches but the government itself admits that assuming 80 per cent availability, only about 8.2 lakh doctors are in active service to serve a population of over 1.3 billion Indians — reflecting the massive burden on doctors to attend to patients.
Doctors want stringent bill to deter violence
The doctors are calling for stringent central legislation to deal with the violence against them. They want the Modi government to fast-track and pass a bill that was under discussion four years ago.
In 2015, the first Modi government had constituted an Inter-Ministerial Committee, which had promised to enact the Central Hospital and Medical Doctors’ Protection Act.
The committee, headed by then union health minister J.P. Nadda, was to submit a report within six weeks. It didn’t and the efforts to formulate the law went into cold storage.
At present, doctors are provided protection in 19 states, including West Bengal, through the Protection Of Medicare Service Persons And Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention Of Violence And Damage To Property) Act, also known as the Medical Protection Act (MPA). Its implementation, however, has been a problem.
“It’s time that the medical profession unites and stands firm until the government brings a bill for violence against doctors in the coming Parliament session,” said Dr K.K. Aggarwal, former national president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA).
“Violence against doctors should be made a non-bailable offence punishable with 7-14 years imprisonment on the lines of abetment to murder because violence against a doctor can end up with the death of other unattended patients.”
Dr Acharya of the Ganga Ram Hospital calls for better surveillance in hospitals.
“To protect doctors, the Act must mandate every hospital to identify high-risk violence-prone areas to be manned by an adequate number of doctors and CCTV cameras,” he said. “Healthcare providers, who are victims of violence, must also be adequately compensated.”
Doctors warn that they may become reluctant to take up serious cases if proper laws aren’t put in place. “Grievances Redressal mechanism should be established in every hospital, for patients or their relatives as well as for the healthcare providers,” Aggarwal said.