Prelims cum Mains Social Issues

Doctors’ bodies seek law to thwart violence

The News

  • Various doctors’ associations in the country led by Indian Medical Association (IMA) have demanded the union government to frame a union law to check violence against health care workers in hospitals.

Context

  • India is witnessing a nation-wide protest from doctors in the aftermath of an incidence of violence against a junior doctor in a Medical College hospital in Kolkata.
  • The crisis has spiraled with doctors across the country demanding a law for security of the doctors and other healthcare professionals.
  • The Indian Medical Association, in a show of solidarity to the agitating doctors, has declared a nation-wide strike of doctors 17 June.

 

In focus: Security of healthcare professional in India

Introduction

  • The recent attack on a junior doctor in a hospital in Kolkata has triggered the issue of security and safe working conditions for healthcare professionals in India.
  • There is a spike in the number of cases of violence against doctors in India of late.

Key findings: IMA report on violence against doctors

  • More than 75% of doctors across the country have faced at least some form of violence.
  • About 50% of violence is faced by doctors who provide emergency services, ICUs and after a surgery.
  • About 70% of the violence is committed by the relatives and attendants of patients.
  • Different forms of violence the doctors face include
  • Physical assault
  • Verbal abuse
  • Threat of violence

Impact: Poor working conditions

  • According to a survey, more than 80% of the doctors in the country feel stressed out in their profession. Half of the cases are because of threat of violence.
  • This has deleterious effect on the healthcare services of the country with the custodians of healthcare in India witnessing an all-time high of physical, mental and emotional assault increasing the anxiety levels in healthcare professionals in India.

 

Reasons for spike in violence

  • Distress of the attendant upon failure of treatment
  • Poor infrastructure and lack of quality healthcare
  • Increased costs of treatments (incidents are high especially in cases of deaths)
  • Demand for time-bound clearing of bills
  • Mistrust between doctors and patients in general
  • Human resource crunch in public hospitals
  • Low spending on health
  • Lack of sensitivity training among doctors
  • No separation of medical and administrative functions

 

States’ Medical Protection Act: A failure

  • Health, being a state subject, 19 States in India have enacted the  Prevention of Violence against Medicare Persons and Medicare Institutions Acts.
  • The Medical Protection Act, being enacted by the states including West Bengal provides for 3 year jail term and Rs 50,000/ fine for attack on doctors.
  • However, the act has not been implemented owing to lack of uniformity among states.
  • As a result, time and again there have been demands to enact a Doctor Protection Act at the union level to ensure uniformity.
  • IMA has again urged in the backdrop of recent violence to frame a doctors’ protection act to make violence against doctors a non-bailable offence.

 

Other steps to curb violence

  • Stringent punishment under the Prevention of Violence against Medicare Persons and Medicare Institutions Acts conferring 7 years of imprisonment for attack on doctors, may act a deterrent.
  • A Central law for prevention of violence against healthcare persons and institutions.
  • Better implementation and awareness of Medical Negligence acts so that the patients can make use of it instead of violence.
  • Standard protocols with the cardinal principle of ‘Do not Overreach’ in treatments and procedures.
  • Better communication and ensuring consent in cases of treatments.
  • Better enforcement on Charter of Patient Rights.
  • Separation of administrative and medical personnel.

 

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