Tamil Nadu Health Minister M Subramanian has warned stern action if anybody assaults or abuses health care professionals, including doctors and nurses.

Doctors in PPE kits
news Health Tuesday, June 08, 2021 - 21:16

Tamil Nadu Health Minister M Subramanian, on June 8, warned stern action if anybody assaults or abuses health care professionals, including doctors and nurses. The minister also warned action against private hospitals that collect exorbitant charges from COVID-19 patients. The Minister’s warning comes after several states have been reporting incidents where doctors and other medical staff are being assaulted by the families of patients or COVID-19 victims. However, doctors and health care professionals said that such instances of workplace attacks at the hands of patients and their families are common and that only strict regulations and policies in hospitals can curb such incidents. 

According to reports, in the last two years, Chengalpattu Government Hospital in Tamil Nadu alone has reported three incidents where doctors have been assaulted. Suresh*, a postgraduate doctor working at Chengalpattu GH, told TNM that he was once verbally abused by a patient’s kin and was almost hit with a chair at the ward where he was working. He said that After three incidents were reported in 2018 and 2019 at Chengalpattu GH, the doctors and other staff staged protests, demanding strict hospital regulations and police check-posts within the premises, in addition to the security personnel. 

Recounting an incident, Suresh said, “I was verbally abused and almost got beaten up by a relative while attending to a patient. The friend of the deceased patient verbally abused me and tried to attack me with a steel chair.”

He also recounted another incident. “In my first year at Chengalpattu GH, a final-year in-service PG doctor was attacked by a patient who was drunk. The patient demanded that he be treated first. However, the doctor was attending to another patient who was serious at the time, and asked the patient who was drunk to wait. Infuriated, the man attacked both the patient who was serious and the doctor. The doctor sustained a severe nose injury.”

In 2019, the kin of a patient manhandled and verbally abused another PG doctor. But the staff intervene and stopped the relative. Following the protests by the staff at Chengalpattu hospital, the authorities set up a police check-post within the hospital premises. However, Suresh and other hospital staff alleged that they are not operational currently.

“Patients and relatives engage in unruly behaviour in the hospital, expecting things to work out their way. For us, it has become a routine,” said Suresh.

Raghu*, a doctor at a government hospital in Cuddalore district, said, “Such incidents are unwarranted. The patient or the relative can file a police complaint or report us to our seniors and management in the hospital and demand rightful punishment. But it is unfair to physically and verbally abuse the doctors. This also calls for strict implementation of hospital rules and immediate attention by the Tamil Nadu government.”

In 2019, the Indian Medical Association (IMA), a national voluntary organisation of doctors of modern medicine, carried out a survey among the medical community to understand the extent of the assaults against them. "Through the survey, IMA realised that nearly 70% of the doctors and health care professionals were assaulted. Unfortunately, the violence continues even during the pandemic," Dr JA Jayalal, national president of IMA, told TNM.  

Dr Jayapal said that IMA is planning to hold a nationwide protest on June 18 to demand the government's attention towards such crimes. “Although Hospital Protection Act is implemented in Tamil Nadu and few other states, a centralised law needs to be brought in, which is included in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Additionally, a security system to control the public should be set up and hospitals should be declared as a safe zone, that is, free from violence,” he added.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Principal Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said that deans at the hospitals and committees set up by the hospital authorities will inquire about such incidents of attacks and take action when it receives complaints. “Furthermore, action will be taken if specific complaints are brought to attention immediately," he said.

(*Names changed on request)


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