Medical students’ associations have been calling for action and creating awareness on the issue on social media over the past few weeks.

Medicos protest
news Health Thursday, June 10, 2021 - 16:02

In the past few weeks, reports of violent attacks on doctors by the kin of patients who passed away have surfaced from across the country, with the provision of security now a main demand of doctors. In light of these reports, medical students associated with All India Democratic Students’ Organization (AIDSO) and the Karnataka Association of Resident Doctors (KARD) have called for the security of doctors to be ensured. 

This comes after an incident on May 31, when a paediatric doctor in Chikkamagalur was severely injured in an attack by one of his patient’s relatives. Following the incident, KARD had written to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa with a demand to create a state level legal cell to probe into the issue. “Doctors face assaults from family members of patients often. Not all assault is physical and in most cases it is verbal. Bereaved families often use very abusive language against us but in most cases, we won’t be able to take any legal action because we are already overworked and the institution also refuses to provide any assistance. Because of this, a legal cell including doctors and lawyers need to be created to look into such cases,” Dr Namratha C, an Anaesthesia Resident at the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute and a KARD member, told TNM. KARD has also been spreading awareness on the attacks against healthcare workers via social media. 

Apart from the issue of safety, medicos say they face a host of problems. Shamanth*, a medical intern at a government college in Karnataka, told TNM that they are being overburdened with work that others can easily do. He said that half of the interns were sent to rural areas to collect swabs for COVID-19 tests, and that the hospital was mainly running with only half the necessary number of doctors. He alleged, “Collecting swabs is not particularly a thing that only doctors have to do. Anyone with a little training can do it. The government, instead of hiring more people for this work, has been sending us interns. With only half the interns back here at the hospital, we have been working without a count of the number of hours. It is not that we can’t collect swabs, but this is creating a serious shortage of doctors at the hospitals.”

When asked if he had experienced violence or other sorts of intimidation, he said, “I personally haven’t been a victim but my friend was nearly thrashed after he told the family of a patient’s death. It is really scary not knowing what will happen when we are just doing our jobs.”

Other doctors that TNM spoke to on the issue, said that the commercialisation of healthcare is to blame for increased incidents of violence against doctors. They believe that, though immediate security is a must, the government must deal with the deeper issue for the long term. 

“Firstly, I wish to say that the relationship between a doctor and a patient is a noble one. However, since the government brought it under the Consumer Protection Act, this relationship became merely a commercial interaction. Also, healthcare has been the most neglected field in our country since independence. In Assam, what we see is the patient’s family blaming the doctor for the lack of oxygen supply and he became a visible target for the family. In reality, it was a failure of the government to provide the necessary infrastructure and resources. The other scenario is when the bereaved families get fleeced left and right by private hospitals. Here again, the doctor becomes the visible target for these families and not the corporate owners behind the hospital. In order to actually solve the problem, the government needs to really make healthcare better and affordable to all,” alleged Dr Suresh Hegde, who is a member of Medical Service Center (MSC), Karnataka Chapter.

In their statement, the AIDSO said that these attacks are a result of modern medicine being “undermined” by people such as Baba Ramdev, who recently referred to modern medicine as a “stupid science” and has been making false claims about COVID-19. As a result, the AIDSO has called for Ramdev’s arrest. 

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