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Doctors, paramedics, and other healthcare professionals are “frontline warriors” in this war against COVID-19. Yet, they have been subject to violence and discrimination. The incidents of violence targeting doctors, nurses, healthcare workers are increasing even as they have been engaged in carrying out their duties.
Following a meeting today between the Union Home Minister and Health Minister and the office-bearers of IMA, led by Dr Rajan Sharma, National President, the government has brought in an ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 which covers dangerous epidemic diseases.
Attacks on doctors, paramedic staff and ASHA workers have been made non-bailable and cognizable offences, which are punishable with imprisonment from 6 months up to 7 years and fine of one lakh up to Rs 5 lakhs. The police investigation will be complete within a month and the case will be fast-tracked with the final judgment to come within a year.
Those found to be damaging the private clinic or a vehicle belonging to a doctor will be asked to pay compensation amounting to twice the market value of the damaged property or assets.
This is a step in the right direction. It is a welcome relief to the medical fraternity and we thank the government for this decision. It has come at the right time when we are in the midst of the biggest public health crisis in modern history.
I hope that this amendment will follow another amendment of CEA or a special ordinance to cover non-epidemic situations also.
Dr KK Aggarwal
President CMAAO, HCFI and Past National President IMA