No safe haven for doctors in India

By Tavanpal Singh

NEW DELHI: Recently a doctor (orthopaedic) was allegedly assaulted at a civil hospital in Dhule, Maharashtra, after he referred a patient to a medical centre in Mumbai due to the non-availability of CT scan facility and a neurosurgeon to examine his injuries, which were caused by a road accident on the day of Holi.

The assault by the patient’s kin resulted in multiple injuries and an orbital fracture.

The incident lead to a number of protests and strikes, in various parts of the country, raising questions on the security provided to doctors in hospitals.

Most notable was the day-long strike on March 24, which nearly crippled healthcare services across the country. Fortunately, the strike was only limited to OPD (outpatient department) services and diagnostics. Emergency wards were functioning in all hospitals.

Initially, the strike only included doctors from government hospitals. Soon, doctors from private hospitals joined in as well.

Dr. D.S. Rana, Chairman of Board of Management, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said the hospital had expressed solidarity with the concerns of Indian Medical Association (IMA) and Delhi Medical Association (DMA) over the safety of doctors.

Associations like the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) supported the doctor’s strike as well. “Last year, doctors in different government hospitals in Delhi went on strike at least eight times due to different incidents of violence. Even this time, we supported the strike by Doctors, but we made sure that health services were not seriously affected by the strike,” said Dr. Pankaj Solanki, president, FORDA.

Such incidents have been happening time and again as a similar incident took place in PGIMER, Chandigarh last year.

Dr. Akash Tiwari, senior resident (Oncology) at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said, “Patients get violent mainly due to emotional turbulence, when they lose their kin. Doctors should make sure that they communicate properly with the attendants of the patients so that they are mentally prepared beforehand.”

Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi | Photo Credits: Yogesh Kant

“Government hospitals usually cater to a greater number of patients than their capacity, which results in lesser time being devoted to a single patient. This leads to frustration and is the primary cause of assaults on doctors,” he further added. Dr. Tiwari also said, “Many a times, lack of funds become the cause of inadequate facilities which in turn depends upon whether the hospital works under the Municipal Corporation or the State Government.”

Recently, the IMA, Maharashtra, held a meeting with the state’s Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and health officials of the state, where all problems faced by doctors due to assaults were discussed. It was discussed that 700 armed security personnel would be appointed from the Maharashtra Security Police Corporation and a security audit of all the medical colleges and hospitals would be conducted.

A proposal was also made for the amendment of Doctors’ Protection Act, 2010 so as to increase the provision of arrest from three years to seven years in case of assault on doctors. In addition to this, formulation of a pass system for the relatives of patients is to be started.

What remains to be seen how effectively the state and central governments implement these proposals to ensure the safety of our life saviours.

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