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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Instances of healthcare professionals being beaten up are rising day by day.
  • The Government had passed an ordinance amending the Epidemic Disease Act which is in the interest of the healthcare workers.
  • The Act provides punishment for violence against the doctors and healthcare workers and also includes provisions for compensation for the damage to their property.
  • Implementation of a Central Law has been difficult because the field of medicine is within the jurisdictive purview of state governments.
  • However, the IMA has recently addressed a letter to the Home Minister requesting him to implement efficient laws for the protection of the medical community from violence.
  • We can help by creating awareness about this issue on social media!

INTRODUCTION

There have been plenty of instances where there has been an assault on medical practitioners and health care workers. This has been going on not only since the Pandemic but from long before. But the covid 19 pandemic has brought a new wave of violence against the healthcare workers. There have been instances of violence at covid centers, designated hospitals, and even the residences of these workers. So many Doctors have succumbed to the pandemic as it is. All these medical practitioners have put their as well as their family’s lives in peril to save those of others. And yet, they have been facing violence. Violence against doctors is not something that gets highlighted in the news. There are several instances of violence against these professionals but all the population is concerned about is the lives of Bollywood stars or cricketers. Hardly anyone promotes the injustice faced by these people. This article focuses on the instances of violence against the medical community, the Doctors Protection Act, the Epidemic Disease Act amendment of 2020, and other issues. The primary focus of the article is to highlight the problems faced by the medical community, especially during the pandemic. Keep reading to know more!

INSTANCES OF VIOLENCE AGAINST MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS

Nothing can be as disgusting and degrading as the attacks on doctors and healthcare professionals.

Recently in Karnataka, a 50-year-old doctor, Dr. Deepak was assaulted by the relative of a person who died. The Doctor is in a serious condition and is receiving treatment at a hospital in Shivamogga. The police have arrested the four accused people. The 7-year-old child who died was suffering from dengue and had developed serious complications. The person was a relative of the child who was accompanied by his friends.

Another instance is where a doctor in Assam’s Hojai District was mercilessly beaten, kicked, and pounded with metal trash cans and bricks by relatives of a covid patient who died due to a shortage of oxygen. The Doctor incurred some major injuries, is now hospitalized and in a stable condition. A video clip of the assault went viral on social media and 24 accused were arrested in overnight searches.

Two people murderously assaulted a doctor on May 27th, 2021, after forcefully stopping his car by shooting two bullets in his head in the Chinhat area in Lucknow because the brother of one of the accused had died during covid treatment. The Doctor is battling for life at a private hospital. The Lucknow police have arrested the two miscreants.

In yet another instance, a doctor, nurse, and a guard were assaulted by two persons whose uncle was receiving treatment at the Pune Covid Centre. The patient’s 35-year-old nephew barged into the doctor’s cabin while a meeting was going on and started verbally abusing him and then assaulted him.

Another Doctor in Kerala alleged that he was assaulted by the son of the covid patient who was brought to the hospital but was declared dead. The relatives abused the doctor and the other staff on duty. As a result of the increasing violence against the doctors and healthcare workers, the State of Kerala saw a protest by the doctors at Thiruvanathapuram and Alappuzha districts of Kerala.

These instances are just the tip of the iceberg. There have been many more incidences of violence against these people who selflessly work so that someone’s life can be saved. So many incidences must have gone unreported; so many doctors and other health care professionals must have gone through this trauma! It indeed is quite unimaginable. There’s a need to create more awareness regarding how unlawful, unethical and inhumane it is to behave in such a way.

ABOUT THE DOCTOR’S PROTECTION ACT (DPA)

Protection of Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act, otherwise known as the Medical Protection Act (MPA), has currently been implemented in about 23 states in India. Andhra Pradesh was the first state to implement the MPA in 2007. According to this Act, an act of violence against a Medicare Service Person or damage or loss to the property of a Medicare Service Institution is prohibited and anyone who commits or attempts to commit or abets or incites the commission of any act of violence will be punished with imprisonment, which may extend to 3 years and with a fine, which may extend to ₹ 50,000. Any offense committed under this act will be cognizable and non-bailable and triable by the Court of First Class Magistrate. But the main concern is the Act isn’t being implemented at the right levels. In Punjab and Haryana, a study revealed that no person was penalized under this act. In Maharashtra, the police were not even aware of this Act. Even though so many states have enacted laws for the protection of doctors, there is so much disparity among these laws. And given the widespread of the pandemic, instances of violence against healthcare professionals have increased and brought to light. However, the Ordinance issued by the Central Government for the protection of healthcare professionals in light of the pandemic has brought a sliver of hope.

ORDINANCE BY CENTRAL GOVERNMENT

In April 2020, the Centre decided to promulgate an ordinance making attacks on healthcare professionals a non-bailable offense. The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to amend the 123-year-old Epidemic Disease Act and insert provisions to take action against such attackers. The ordinance specifies that no one can commit or abet the commission of violence against the healthcare professionals and abet or cause loss and damage to any property during the epidemic. It is reassuring that the Prime Minister strongly condemned the growing attack on the medical practitioners and reiterated the government’s solidarity with them by following a 0 tolerance policy against such attackers.

According to the amendment, an act of violence includes the following:

  1. Harassment impacting living conditions
  2. Harm, injury, and danger to life
  3. Obstruction in discharging duty
  4. Loss or damage of the property (clinic, quarantine facility mobile medical unit, other property where services are carried out) and documents of the professional

Punishment under the amendment:

  1. Under the provisions of this amendment, anyone who goes in contravention of this will be punished with imprisonment between three months and five months and five years and a fine between 50,000 to 2 lakh.
  2. If there is serious and grievous harm, the punishment will be imprisonment between 6 months to 7 years and a fine between one lakh to five lakh.
  3. The person who has committed the offense will also be held liable to pay compensation to the aggrieved health care service personnel. The compensation will be determined by the court.

The Centre made it clear that the law requires the police to complete the probe in 30 days and the Court must pronounce a judgment within a year.

WHY HAS THERE BEEN NO EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION OF LAW FOR THE PROTECTION OF HEALTHCARE WORKERS

Moving forwards, according to the study of the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, In India, a lot of states have laws that penalize violence against doctors and hospitals, but there is no central legislation. There was one bill that was tabled in the parliament in 2018. In 2019, the Ministry of Health, Government of India proposed the Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage of Property) Bill. But it couldn’t succeed because there cannot be a separate law for doctors. Implementation of a Central Law has been difficult because the field of medicine is within the jurisdictive purview of state governments.

WHAT CAN BE DONE

According to the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, there is one central act in the field of Medicine which, is the Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994. This Act can draw a parallel with the violence situation. Right now is the best time for a central law that will help aid in reducing the violence against doctors. Implementation of effective law for medical practitioners is just what the nation needs right now. It will not only encourage the existing practitioners but also encourage the young generation. Central legislation with the existing state legislation can ensure safety and security for doctors and other medical practitioners. If a strict central law is passed and enforced effectively and efficiently, people will think twice before abusing and raising a hand on the doctors. It will alsoinstill confidence in the doctors and make the medical field safe for the upcoming practitioners.

Furthermore, problems like unrestricted access to areas in hospitals, lack of security, a poor mechanism for grievance redressal, political intervention in the doctors’ business, etc. should be fixed. The media should avoid publishing content that damages a doctor’s character. It should only be done in extreme and extraordinary cases.

Recently the Indian Medical Association has written to the Home Minister Amit Shah to approve a comprehensive, uniform, and effective law against the violence faced by the doctors. The IMA wrote that the real size of the problem is largely unknown and the incidences of violence against the healthcare workers have become more and more widespread with every passing year. The Indian Medical Association further went on to state that they have been standing with the government and working tirelessly during the pandemic. The entire medical fraternity is facing a serious threat from healthcare violence.

HOW CAN WE CONTRIBUTE

Social Media has been playing a very important role in our lives for the past few years and has increased more so since the lockdown last year. We as responsible citizens too can help promote awareness about the problems the doctors in our country go through!

Also, if an issue is efficiently covered by media and promoted among the masses, it will create awareness about the issues faced by the doctors. The media can also create awareness about the Ordinance of 2020 and the Doctors Protection Act. Whatever is being shared by media today is not sufficient. It needs to be focused on more and detailed information needs to be made available to the public.

While researching for this article, I came across different views of different people. People claimed that doctors have looted the patient and their family members in the name of covid. One comment held that the doctors kill the patient and claim lakhs of rupees to release the body. Some doctors might be corrupt, but the entire medical community as a whole isn’t! So many innocent doctors have faced injustice. The public should first verify if such news is genuine or a rumor. This is not only outraging but also immature.

CONCLUSION

Doctors and other medical practitioners work selflessly for others. They do their best and give their best to save a life. Our covid warriors have willingly made several sacrifices and gone through hardships to provide the services when the nation is ill due to the virus. It should be embedded in the minds of the younger generation that everyone, irrespective of their profession, religion, caste, creed, gender should be treated with respect and humanity. It’s high time that we take this issue seriously. Law enforcement and the courts should ensure that no guilty person of such grievous offenses is ever spared. The political parties too must contribute to the cause. The public should get a loud and clear message that abusing and assaulting medical practitioners is going to get them in trouble.


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