Ramesh ShankarWednesday, April 19, 2023, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Jharkhand Cabinet has recently approved a bill, Jharkhand Medical Service, Medical Service Association (Prevention of Violence and Property Damage) Bill, aimed at the protection of medical professionals in the state. Some of the provisions of bill include jail term of up to two years and a monetary fine of up to Rs. 50,000 against any person found guilty of assault on medical professionals and vandalising government and private hospital properties. The introduction of the bill comes in the backdrop of the fact that doctors in Jharkhand have been demanding protection for medical professionals after incidents of repeated assaults on them in the state. The Cabinet gave its nod to the bill as there were repeated demands from the medical fraternity in the state for such a law. The state has witnessed several cases of attack in hospitals involving medical professionals and family members of patients. Two such attacks happened this year in Garhwa and Dhanbad districts, leading to strikes of medical professionals in respective districts. In fact, the doctors had threatened to go on strike for an indefinite agitation if the bill was not approved. The doctors went on a day-long boycott of services on March 1 to protest against repeated assaults on medical practitioners. They also organised a candlelight march on March 5 to protest against the repeated assaults on medical professionals in the state. However, after introduction of the bill in the state Assembly, the bill, seeking to prevent doctors, healthcare staff and hospitals from attacks by patients and their relatives, was sent to the Select Committee for proper study and give its opinion after MLAs cutting across party lines opposed to some of the provisions in the bill. This is not the first time such a bill was introduced in the state Assembly. The medical protection bill was introduced in 2013 and 2017 too, but it could not be implemented after it was sent to Select Committee.

Of course, 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. It is a fact that the doctors, especially in government hospitals, work under tremendous pressure as the doctor-patient ratio in the country has been steadily shooting up. In such a background, there should be some mechanism to prevent attacks on doctors and other healthcare professionals by the angry family members of patients. Sending the bill to Select Committee is a setback for medical fraternity in Jharkhand as it is the 24th state to introduce Medical Protection Bill. Many states including Bihar, Odisha and Bengal already have medical protection act in their states. All other states should also take measures to introduce the bill and implement it in letter and spirit to check violence against doctors and other healthcare professionals in hospitals.