Save the saviours

Mon, Jun 17, 2019

The nationwide strike to protest the attack on a doctor in Kolkata has brought back to centre stage the increasing menace of violence against doctors and the healthcare establishment. Indian Medical Association (IMA), which had given the protest call, has revealed that 75% of doctors in India have faced violence at some point of time in their life, and most of it is verbal abuse. Incidentally, Maharashtra and West Bengal are two prominent states where incidents of violence by patients’ relatives, local goondas, and political bosses were reported in the government hospitals and primary health centres. The private hospitals are no more an exception. The trigger is not necessarily only money but anxiety coupled with lack of proper a grievance mechanism, poor quality of emergency care, and high workload pressure.
Doctors, who were until recently seen as a saviour, are being painted as devil. It was found that patients want five-star treatment but are not willing to pay for the same. The ultra-modern medical and healthcare facilities do not reach government and civic body hospitals due to the apathy and red tape of bureaucracy at the government level. Lack of adequate budgetary allocation towards health puts a lot of limitation for the upgrade of healthcare infrastructure in states. During NDA-I, the budgetary allocation was a paltry 1.04 per cent of GDP which was much less than in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh. This resulted in the inferior provision of healthcare facilities in village, block, tehsil and district hospitals.
It is a reality that there is an unprecedented burden of healthcare on the district and tertiary hospitals which are unable to cater to the increased workload. When patients are denied proper care at lower levels they spend excessive time in reaching proper tertiary healthcare services which quite often results in death due to deterioration in the patients’ condition. Relatives lose their near and dear ones and target doctors as they strongly feel that medical practice is an exact science. The relatives and their acquaintances are not ready to understand that every patient is different and every disease cannot be cured.
Maharashtra was the first state to enact the Prevention of Violence Against Doctors and Healthcare Establishment Act way back in 2010. The Act has the provision of arrest vide a non-bailable offence against the perpetrators. In addition to this, there is a provision of a fine of Rs 50,000 or penalty twice the amount of loss made to the hospitals. Till date, more than 100 cases have been registered in Maharashtra but not a single one has reached its logical conclusion. At least 19 states have passed laws criminalising violence against doctors. However, the Centre is yet to enact a law at the national level whereby bail can be granted only by a judicial magistrate. The ball is in the Centre’s court to bring violence against doctors under the Criminal Procedure Code and increase budgetary allocation for the health sector. On their part, states will have to take all the possible steps to provide a secure environment for doctors.

Area: 7096 Sq Km
Altitude: 5,840 ft
Population: 6.10 Lakhs
Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 ft. to over 28,509 ft above sea level
Summer: Max- 21°C ; Min – 13°C
Winter: Max -13°C ; Min – 0.48°C
Rainfall: 325 cm per annum
Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi