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Ramesh Shankar
Wednesday, May 12, 2021, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Safety and security in hospitals have been a matter of great concern for quite some time in the country. There have been reports of intermittent violence against the medical fraternity by the relatives of the patients in different parts of the country. In fact, there have been several such cases in the past also where the doctors and other medical professionals have been bearing the brunt of the violent relatives of the patients. When a patient dies, his family members and friends sometimes may get charged up as they come to the conclusion that the death has been occurred due to the negligence of the doctors and other healthcare professionals. But, whatever might be the reason for the death, the relatives and the friends of the patients have no right to give vent to their ire and emotions on doctors and other healthcare professionals. Such violence will only further vitiate the atmosphere in hospitals which are crumbling like a house of cards due to overcrowding of corona patients, and apparent scarcity of oxygen and drugs. Besides, the threat of violence will increase the stress levels of the doctors and the healthcare workers. It is a fact that behavioural aberrations of a consumerist society, inappropriate expectations and ignorance of limitations, all contribute to the civilisational degeneration called violence on doctors and hospitals. The extent of degeneration can be fathomed from the fact that recently a comedian Sunil Pal went to the extent of calling the doctors 'demons' and 'thieves' in one of his videos on social media.

Quite understandably, the medical fraternity is an anguished lot today because of this hostile environment in hospitals, especially during this time of corona pandemic which has taken a huge toll on the medical fraternity. There are no two opinions about the fact that the doctors across the country have been doing a yeoman’s service to the nation in fighting the corona pandemic during the last more than a year now. No doubt they are working under tremendous mental and physical stress because of this prolonged pandemic which is still not showing any signs of receding in the country. In such an unprecedented situation, providing a safe and secure working environment to the medical fraternity should be accorded top priority. The issue has once again been brought to the fore by the Indian Medical Association which has recently demanded to the Union Home Minister to ensure safety environment in hospitals and protect the healthcare professionals against violence, especially during this difficult time of pandemic. The association also demanded that hospitals should be declared as protected zone and mandatory official observance by police should be done in all hospital premises. It is not that the government did not do anything on this front. In September last year, the Central government had brought in The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, to make incidents of violence on health workers treating Covid patients a non-bailable offence with provisions of a penalty and a jail term of up to seven years. But that did not bear the intended result as violent incidents on medical fraternity are still reported from different parts of the country as the enforcement of this Act has been poor because it is not tagged to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). This makes it difficult for victims to file a complaint as well as the police to register their complaint because of the difficulty in recognizing which section to file the case under and hence very often the culprits go scot free. As the issue is grave, urgent government intervention is the need of the hour.  The Central govt should enact a law with IPC section, fixing the responsible officers to investigate, time frame for investigation and punishments to the culprits, as early as possible, without the option for bail. As the frontline corona warriors, the medical fraternity deserves a safety environment to work for the suffering humanity.


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