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COVID has put doctors under immense pressure

Assault Cases on Doctors During Pandemic Spur Medical Practitioners to Campaign Petition to Stop this Abuse – (Part 1)

Last year, a doctor called Paribha Mukherjee was brutally attacked by a violent mob at NRS Medical College, Kolkata, and his condition was critical, and he was fighting for his life. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) demanded a national law against hospital violence and the organization had declared zero-tolerance policy against violence on doctors and healthcare establishments. A doctor from District Hospital, Thoubal, Manipur, India, Ch. Memcha even staged a sit-in protest, wearing black badge and symbolic bandaging of their (the protesters) heads were demonstrated to denounce violence against doctors by patient parties.

According to the Times of India, a brutal mob assaulted a Government doctor in Assam’s Hojai district over the death of a Covid-19 patient who was not even under his care which led to the arrest of 24 people, including three minors and triggered a boycott of outpatient services by doctors across state-run hospitals on 3rd June 2021. According to The Indian Express, the assaulted doctor, Dr. Seuj Kumar Senapati was kicked and thrashed with brooms and utensils by the mob at the Udali Covid care center in Hojai district, Assam, India. The doctor had just started his 1.30 pm shift on Tuesday when he found that a patient identified as Giyasuddin had died, the center’s nodal officer, Dr. Imran Hussain said.

The news of assault on doctors have been reported last year and this year too. Amongst them, there are some doctors who do not complain to keep doing their jobs and not create a havoc. Yet, their patience is wearing thin as the pandemic and the public are taking a toll on their lives. Some doctors were randomly picked up and interviewed and their stories are heartwarming and that is why they must be shared. There are layers on injustices the doctors of our country go through.

I asked a young doctor called Dr. Donborlong Byrsant, DNB Dermatology, who used to work as a Senior Resident at SSG Hospital, Baroda, India if he had faced any assaults personally, he said, “I have not experienced any physical assault personally but I have seen it happening in SSG itself. An incident occurred when a doctor on duty was assaulted by a patient’s relatives because the patient passed away in the Emergency Room. But the patient had been brought to us in an unstable condition. Many mental harassment cases have been happening daily in the OPD too. For example, the patients’ relatives would threaten to beat us up or even kill us! I think the Government should implement some strict laws to avoid such cases because such miscreants always escape punishment. And, a hospital should be made a good and protective place.”

Another young doctor from another different part of the country also tells me her experiences as a young doctor in this country. Her name is Dr. Pooja G. Naidu (Resident doctor at Government Subcenter Sulikunte, Karnataka, India) and she said, “I have gone through it (mental harassment, actually 3-4 times). It was not as severe as the ones going on right now, but it was during my internship days and in my present workplace. When I was an intern, I was at the casualty one day with my PGs as it was my duty day and there were some 3-4 patients at the casualty and few PGs were attending to them while I was sitting there with another PG and I was writing a case when suddenly, a mob of 10-15 people barged in with a patient who had been in a road accident. And, with the way they were behaving, we understood they were drunk. When this mob entered the casualty, the only thing they said was whichever doctor is here, all should come and attend to this patient or else we shall see our end! These were the exact words that they said before even telling us what had happened or how it had happened. These were the exact words!! It pissed me off so much that I still remember few of their faces although it has been 3 years since that incident! I was frustrated but my PGs did not want to make it an issue and that’s why everyone went and attended to the patient. But the place I work at now is a government subcenter. It is an OPD, no admission! And, we have basic drugs needed for an OPD which are limited. These people would threaten me and harass me for not giving them medicines because they think that I am not giving them in spite of not having them. This happens at least 2-3 times a week.

I go on my Scooty to work, 12 kms from my home because it is a rural area, so, not many bus facilities are available. I’ve been working for 6 months but we are paid once in 2 months, sometimes once in 3 months. Since this March, they said that we would not have any issues like this, but the Taluk Health Officer has put my salary and two other doctors’ salaries on hold. She hasn’t told us the reason neither does she answer our calls. During last year, it was a different lady who was the Taluk Health Officer. It was during the beginning of the pandemic, around March 24, 2020, I wanted a leave for a day because my dad had a heart attack and he had to undergo angioplasty. I wanted to be there with him, but they denied my request for leave! They said I cannot take a leave because the pandemic has just started. My dad was in hospital and the officer said that it was not her problem. I was so frustrated and so pissed off that I just cried because of anger.”

There is another doctor who shares with us her experience as a Community Health Centre doctor. Dr. Carisa Manilal. Dr. Carisa narrates, “I have personally experienced threats while working at the CHC. A CHC is a Community Health Centre, usually after OPD hours, and we provide only emergency care and during the emergency duty, we have just one doctor, one nurse and one man for the gate. Since we are located at the main highway, we frequently received RTAs (Road Traffic Accidents) and most of those patients’ conditions are severe, because of which I would usually have to refer the patients to higher centers. Since the CHC is located on the outskirts, it is difficult to have ambulances on time. The attendees are supposed to call up ‘108’ (on the phone) as our CHC doesn’t provide ambulances. Due to the delay in getting the ambulance, the attendees used to threaten me and my staff saying that if anything happens to the patient, I would be responsible and they specified that they are locals and that they know where we live, how we travel so we better be careful. At times we would get patients in chronic conditions, where, literally I could do nothing but refer the case to a higher center. Once I remember, an attendee called about 15-20 men to the CHC, at 2 am just because I referred the case. Those men reached my hospital with sticks in their hands and created a huge ruckus and unfortunately, there was no male staff that night and we had no option but to call the police. Another incident was when a patient was brought here, dead. The patient had no vitals, I checked his B.P, pulse, auscultated him but I couldn’t get anything. But the attendees refused to accept that he was dead so I had to refer him to a higher center so that they could at least get an ECG done for the confirmation. My hospital doesn’t have the facility for the ECG. But they refused to take the body also. Instead, a crowd started to gather in the hospital and the body was kept just like that, for more than two hours. I see (approximately) 50 people standing around me and the body and gradually, blaming me for not treating the patient. Eventually they started saying that the doctor (me) did not even bother to see the patient. They demanded me to at least put him on oxygen. I kept explaining to them to take him to a higher center instead of wasting time because it is Covid time. We could not get an ambulance and they continued to argue with me and then the verbal abuse started, so in the end, I had to call the police, as usual. The problem is that we (in rural hospitals) do not have proper facilities, no manpower, no transportation, no proper equipment and on top of that, people are not educated, they don’t understand our situation and start to bully us.”

From these instances we see that doctors in rural areas face much harshness in their daily lives as doctors. It is time to demand from our MLAs better Community Health Centers in every district in India.

Readers who want to help sign a petition can do so on this link

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