After Kolkata, such an attack took place in Delhi’s Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan hospital on July 7, 2019 and this too led to strikes
There has been a rise in stress-induced disorders among doctors recently. Confrontations between treating doctors and patients’ attendants are also being reported frequently. Medicine is considered the most noble profession and doctors are respected as those next to God. However, the Kolkata incident renewed a national debate on the plight of occupational safety and health of doctors across the country.
Various studies conducted in other parts of the world also show a poor picture of safety of medical professionals. In a study of 675 physicians in nine tertiary institutes across Pakistan, 76 per cent reported verbal or physical violence during the previous two months. Chinese doctors are often victims of violence. In June 2010, a doctor and a nurse were fatally stabbed in Shandong province by the son of a patient who died of liver cancer.
A study recently conducted by Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Gandhinagar in 2019 assessing stress levels among practising doctors of Gandhinagar and the incidents of assault against them revealed alarming results. The researchers interviewed 72 doctors from 14 specialities.
Around three-fourth (72.2 per cent) of them worked in the private sector, either had their own hospital or worked in a private multi-speciality or corporate hospital. The government sector had employed 26.4 per cent of them.
Gujarat is one of the most developed and urbanised states of the country. The ground realities, be it in education, law and order, social security etc is much better than the rest of the country.
The sad part is that even in this part of the country, doctors and other healthcare providers are subjected to verbal and physical assault. Moreover, there has been an increase in such cases of assault.
In this study, 41 or 57 per cent of them said they had faced untoward behaviour or physical assault in the last one year.
Of these 41, majority (22) were verbally abused, 12 were verbally abused and threatened, two experienced physical violence from patient’s relatives and others, two were verbally abused and faced physical violence, two were verbally abused and had to deal with police complaints and one doctor was subjected to verbal, physical violence and threatening.
None of them was threatened with a weapon unlike in the NRS Medical College case.
Majority of hospitals and clinics are equipped with CCTV cameras, which act as a deterrent to attackers and yet cases of assault on doctors have increased manifold. More than 90 per cent (65 out of 72) of doctors feel that assault on doctors have increased in the last few years.
The reasons for such increase, according to the study, are distrust between doctors and patients regarding treatment and fees, high expectations of patients and relatives, billing issues, unwillingness to pay, increased workload, tarnished reputation of doctors, commercialisation of the medical field, lack of unity among doctors and media’s over reaction.
Doctors expect medical bodies like the Indian Medical Association (IMA) to come to their defence, their local branch to support them and show solidarity, provide legal advice and assistance and help file first information reports in police stations.
The government should also act proactively in enforcing existing laws. The recent attacks on young doctors make it all the more imperative that the central government enacts the Prevention of Violence against Doctors, Medical Professionals and Medical Institutions Bill.
It’s high time we make concrete efforts to ensure a safe work environment for doctors. We must understand the fact that there can be no society without doctors. The government, civil society, non-profits, IMA and other stakeholders must ensure a permanent solution to the crime of attacking doctors, who are our life savers.
Anish Sinha is a faculty member at the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar. Views expressed are personal
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