The Bombay High Court directed the protesting resident doctors in Maharashtra to resume duty straightaway. The civic-run KEM Hospital in Mumbai issued suspension notices to the doctors who did not report to duty despite state Medical Education Minister asking them to resume work. Government has not assured any safety to them but ask them to resume work at any cost. People assaulted them, blackened their faces, attacked them to death but doctors just protested and get back to their work, this has been going on for so long.
Thousands of resident doctors have been striking, demanding enhanced security in the wake of a string of attacks on doctors by patients’ relatives at government hospitals across the state. The protests have been hampering the services of Out-Patient Departments (OPDs) in various hospitals.
A woman doctor of the civic-run Sion hospital was beaten up by the relatives of a patient, which made the stand of the protesting medicos more aggressive. The doctors in government hospitals are more vulnerable and always assaulted. There is no armed security for them at sensitive places on the hospital premises. There is no alarm system so that the doctors can call the security. There is stringent law to punish the attackers, government should pass a law or make an announcement that the attack on doctors a non-bailable offence and cases should be heard before fast track courts. Unless and until there is no deterrence the attacks on doctors will continue.
According to the data of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s medical department, the present strength of security personnel in KEM hospital is 210 and there is an additional requirement of 306 guards. The current strength of security staff in Sion hospital is 180 and there is an additional requirement of 206. The increasing instances of attacks on doctors have more to do with systemic failure over a period of time rather than any recent stray incident.
System that makes resident doctors, who are essentially post-graduate students, do bulk of the tasks in government hospitals is faulty. If at all possible, senior doctors who are permanent employees should be handling major tasks in government hospitals. But most of the time students are made to handle so many responsibilities that if they strike, the entire health system collapses. The government has put the doctors and patients at loggerheads.
Nurses and para-medical staff should be trained and empowered to handle emergencies and not just be restricted to do paperwork. “Shortage of Grade IV employees in hospitals also means that relatives of patients end up doing tasks like pushing trolleys. Shortage of basic medicines in hospitals, even of those on the National List of Essential Medication, forces doctors to ask patients to buy medicines from outside, which only makes doctors suspicious in the eyes of the patients. Lack of working equipment in hospitals forces doctors to direct patients elsewhere which adds to doubt that doctors are hand-in-glove with laboratories when actually they are helpless. Administration lacks the will to improve the conditions of government hospitals, they also fail on various fronts but doctor get victimised due to their direct role in dealing with patients.
Many times, medicines that are nearing expiry dates are dumped in hospitals. Also, leaders come and inaugurate services like dialysis machines and CT scan machines with much fanfare and then fail to sanction essential chemicals or even personnel to run the show. This results in public anger, as people feel that the doctors or medical authorities at hospital are not providing them the services. Moreover, many posts of doctors are left vacant, which burdens the junior doctors. One doctor is handling hundreds of patients a day.
Big hospitals like K.E.M., Sion and J.J. are over-burdened to provide healthcare to the entire population of Mumbai and its suburbs due to lack of development of healthcare facilities in areas like Palghar or Alibaug. Due to lack of co-ordination and concerns, mob of people stormed the hospital and abuse doctors. They get verbal abuse and threats on a daily basis. They don’t stop here, at times, they go manhandling and slapping the doctors or blackening their faces or injuring their body. During such crises, no security guards are available to protect the doctor against mob violence. To avoid such situations, doctors are demanding that the government improves the quality of security at hospitals by increasing the numbers of guards and restricting the number of relatives allowed to visit a patient in the ward. Though, promises have been made to better protect the physical safety of doctors, the doctors say little has been done. The Indian government spends 1.15% of its GDP on public healthcare, among the lowest in the world.
Sometimes ago the government introduced a new national health bill that promises to increase that figure to 2.5%. India’s state-run hospitals are scandalously under-resourced and struggle to meet demands; they are not equipped to handle that patient load. Doctors fail to win the confidence of patients because they are helpless with the unequipped and in efficient resources to fulfill the needs of sufferers. They always come under suspension if they refer the patient to another hospital or demand outside medicines or ask for medical reports from private labs. Government is least bothered to improve the conditions of state run hospitals, in such circumstances, people lose their calm and attack the doctors assuming them responsible for everything. There needs to be a proper dialogue between the government and hospital authorities towards the improving health care services, else this will remain a never ending saga.
(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on firstname.lastname@example.org)