Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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A hospital in mphal ransacked by irate patient's party

Assault on Doctors and Other Health Workers Must End – Part 2

After the assault of Dr. Seuj Kumar Sepnapati, many people of India were outraged but in Manipur, there has been a different climate altogether. People out here do not seem to be sympathetic towards doctors in general. In fact some people seem to be applauding the people who have assaulted this doctor as seen on social media platforms such as Facebook. Recently, a Manipur government hospital JNIMS’s ICU was ransacked by a patient party whose family member had passed away due to Covid-19. There have been many incidents like that in Manipur where the patient parties have assaulted doctors. In Part-1 of this article, interviews of three different doctors from three different parts of India was published. Through those interviews, we could determine that doctors suffer much in rural areas due to the lack of resources provided in rural health care centers. The same thing happens with Manipur government hospitals too.

Some more interviews were taken, and this time young doctors from Manipur and the rest of the country have expressed themselves.

Dr. Neelu Thoudam of JR NEIGRIHM (Imphal) said, “This kind of act is real unfortunate for us. I strongly condemn this. The government should take some serious actions against this kind of violent acts and punish the people who are involved in assaulting doctors. We too are human beings and everything is not under our control but we are trying our best to save the lives of others, sacrificing our own in this pandemic and what do we get in return? This inhuman treatment? This is really a big issue and should be discussed and we (all doctors) should stand up for each other when no other people are there to raise a voice for us and support us.”

Another doctor from Manipur named Taruni said, “The mental toll is great. When we come back from a 48-hour shift and get news like these, it really makes us wonder if it is all worth it?! To risk it all, to give it all, our health -physical and mental, and the time away from near and dear ones. All I know is that I don’t want to be serving my country anymore…I would like to work and pursue my dreams elsewhere, where health care system is not crashed like ours and this feeling resides with at least 80 per cent of my colleagues.”

Another doctor who is working at  District Hospital, Ukhrul right now, named Mungvah Chonreipem said, “A senior doctor at a major government hospital in Imphal who worked at Casaulty was threatened that he will be beaten up later as the patient’s relatives were not satisfied with the treatment in spite of all the work he did to save that patient. Usually, in Government hospitals’ Casaulty ward, many emergency cases come but the doctors have lesser equipment and facilities than private hospitals; but the doctors still try their best to save the patients’ lives as if they were their own. But if something goes wrong, they put the blame completely on the duty doctor and they will assault them and abuse them physically and mentally. Doctors are also human beings trying their best. We are not God, to make people immortal.”

A doctor working at RIMS, Imphal who does not want to be named said, “The thing is there are many factors contributing to this kind of behavior against doctors. First thing is, I reckon that most people feel that doctors are entitled. They have this deep-rooted belief that doctors are so full of themselves and so they feel like they need to show us our ‘right place’. They believe that we should get beaten up, that we deserve it. This can only be because they believe that doctors are entitled, that we are duping everyone and charging exorbitant fees. What they don’t see is the struggle we had to put in for at least a minimum of 10 years of our lives to get to where we are today. The Zomato guy who got assaulted got a lot of support because he has a minimum wage, but most people are not supporting doctors because they think that we are apparently a privileged lot so, we don’t deserve their pity. What they don’t know is that there is so much disparity amongst the earnings of doctors. We give up our personal lives to attend to patients in need, even at the risk of our own health. People need to stop having this idea that doctors are a privileged lot. And, they need to understand that we are not miracle workers. Sometimes, it is just out of our hands!”

Screenshot of group discussion approving attacks on doctors

There is another doctor, Dr. Sarah Roberts (Subam Clinic, Coimbatore, India), who told IRAP of her own experience of abuse suffered by herself as a doctor. She said, “This is not the first time that doctors have opened up about these issues. The problem is people will talk about it for two days and forget about it and remember it when the next assault happens. In this country, somewhere or the other, doctors are being harassed either verbally or physically abused. In my college days, during my internship, a junior resident was beaten up by some attendees and that is why we were all asked to remove our aprons and stethoscopes so that we could avoid being assaulted by those people. We do our best but there is a problem with our people’s mindset, thinking, we are like a God. Why can’t people just treat us like normal human beings? I fear that young doctors of this country will soon lose their zeal to serve this country as the assaults on doctors escalate. If the government of this country and people of this country do not recognize this country’s doctors’ efforts, there will probably be a mass flee of doctors to other countries where there are scheduled hours, the much needed off days, the right to speak up, the right salary and most importantly the mental and physical well being of the doctors are being cared about.”

The last doctor, a Consultant Psychiatrist by the name of Spandana Dev from Hyderabad said in her account, “Since my time as an undergrad student, I have heard stories of doctors being ill-treated by patients’ relatives. But, for the first time, I faced it when I was working as an intern. The death of a child in Pediatric Ward led to mayhem. The relatives took out their frustration on the treating doctor and the infrastructure. I remember vividly…me and a couple of nurses were locked up in their room in the ward by the guards to protect us. I understand their pain because I was also one of the doctors who was treating the child and I was really hoping to see the child alive and for the child to get out of the ICU. Unfortunately, the child did not make it. Grief is complex and it makes us do things which might not be in the best interest of anybody involved. Also, the cultural underpinnings of it cannot be ignored. Losing or seeing a loved one go through pain is difficult but how we process and show it is important too. That day when we lost the child, the care of so many other kids in the ICU was kept on hold. It is the same vicious cycle that keeps coming up in different settings. I saw a similar incident as a post grad and later as a faculty; where the caregiver is unhappy with the services of a doctor and they resort to violence. It is a knee-jerk reaction – the doctor could not save someone from the physical pain, so the doctor deserves the same treatment. Unfortunately, the cases of doctors being mistreated only seem to be on the rise and is becoming a norm. There is a need for laws protecting the doctors wherein violence in doctors is seen as a serious offence and the institution where the doctors went through such mistreatment should be the one fighting the case on behalf of the wounded doctor. The reason I am asking the institutions to take a stronger stance is because a single doctor cannot fight a case by himself. I have seen so many of them give up midway as the legal proceedings and all the red tape become too much for one person and not to mention the financial burden!”

These are some of the very hard-working doctors of this country who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect as all the other doctors who are serving the people of this country. To slam them during this pandemic is inhumane. Bring about better community health care centers and continue supporting this country’s doctors who work in vulnerable conditions by signing this petition http://chng.it/Q7rJWVZv

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