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'Doctors must not be harmed by mobs'

June 19, 2019 09:26 IST

'The government must have armed security personnel for doctors and only then they can go and serve people.'

IMAGE: A doctor holds a placard at a government hospital in Kolkata during a strike demanding security after the recent assaults on doctors. Junior doctors called off their week-long strike on Monday, June 17, 2019. Photograph: Jayanta Dey/Reuters

On Monday, doctors striking in West Bengal finally relented and called off their protest after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee relented to their demands of better security in hospitals.

The issue of doctors's safety also reached the Supreme Court on Tuesday, with the apex court saying that it would hear in July a plea seeking safety and security of doctors in government hospitals.

Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, who filed the petition in the Supreme Court, sought a direction from the apex court for the deployment of government-appointed security personnel at all government hospitals as well as the formulation of strict guidelines for the purpose.

He submitted that 'strictest action' be taken against those who assaulted the doctor at the Kolkata hospital, leading to the faceof with the medical fraternity. The doctor was allegedly attacked by relatives of a patient who died on June 10 at the hospital.

"Today, nobody wants to become a government doctor in India," Srivastava tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.

Why did you file this PIL in the Supreme Court?

After the doctors's strike in West Bengal, I found out that certain doctors were brutally assaulted by a mob, which led to the strike.

This strike resulted in many poor people being denied medical treatment. The rich can afford private hospitals, but what about the poor who have no other place than government hospitals?

A large section of our population is poor. Therefore, government doctors are very important. India, as a country, already faces a shortage of doctors and only a handful of them work in government hospitals. So, it is the duty of the government to protect and keep our doctors safe from mobs.

 

And what does your PIL say?

My petition says we need to continue the medical treatment of poor people and at the same time ensure security to doctors.

There was a deadlock two days ago between the West Bengal government and doctors and it had to be resolved.

I believe since the Supreme Court intervened and indulged in my petition, the West Bengal government made an effort to resolve the issue and end the doctors's strike.

My second prayer is that the government must have armed security personnel for doctors and only then they can go and serve people.

Why is it that nobody thought of providing protection to our doctors earlier?

Exactly. It is important that doctors get protection in hospitals. They must not get harmed by mobs.

Worse, due to such doctors's strike the poor people suffer and nobody ever thought of that. You and me can go to private hospitals, but where will the poor go?

IMAGE: Patients and their relatives wait for treatment at a government hospital during a strike by doctors demanding security after the recent assaults on doctors by the patients's relatives in Kolkata. Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

How many doctors in India have been attacked?

As far as I know, there is only 1 doctor for a population of 11,000 Indians. And this includes private doctors too. I don't have the ratio of doctor vis-à-vis patient population visiting government hospitals.

Today, nobody wants to become a government doctor in India. There is no infrastructure and, to add to that, there is no security for these government doctors. No medical student wants to join government hospitals.

I believe in Mumbai there are statistics that 60 per cent of government doctors have been attacked by angry mobs when their patient has died. Is there any truth to such statistics?

The Indian Medical Association says 75 per cent of doctors have been attacked or have suffered some kind of violence or some trauma.

Is there any study done as to why relatives of patients who die attack doctors?

We are not civilised people, period.

And these doctors are helpless in front of mobs.

In Bihar, these children who died in Muzaffarpur, you check the condition of that hospital.

There are no beds in the intensive care unit and on top of that there are no medicines in hospitals too.

Is there complete neglect of the health sector in India?

We, as a country, have neglected the health sector in a big way.

People belonging to the middle class have completely shifted to private hospitals and we do not go to government hospitals.

If you ask any maid she will go to a public hospital. Very few people can afford private hospitals.

In places like AIIMS if you go, you will find that patients live like animals.

If you go to any government hospital in India you will feel sad to see the situation as medicines too are not available.

I, as a lawyer, am trying to do my best. Now it is up to the government to decide how best they can provide security for doctors.

But what can the central government do because health is a state subject?

Health is indeed in the state list and therefore when something goes wrong in a Bihar hospital Nitish Kumar, the chief minister, is blamed. However, the Union government too has to take overall responsibility.

SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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