Though close to 200 cases of violence against healthcare workers have been reported in the State since 2020, none of the culprits have been booked under the Act, says IMA State unit. The doctors have urged the government to amend the Act to declare the area within a 500-metre radius of a hospital as a special protection zone
March 12, 2023 07:52 pm | Updated March 13, 2023 10:06 pm IST – Kozhikode
The State government is reportedly mulling over bringing in amendments to a legislation that prohibits attacks against healthcare workers and imposes a punishment of up to three years in jail and a fine up to ₹50,000, with more cases of violence against doctors and hospitals being reported from various districts recently.
The latest such incident happened in Kozhikode city on March 4 when a senior cardiologist in a private hospital was manhandled by a group that accompanied a patient even though the doctor was not involved in the treatment. According to sources in the Indian Medical Association (IMA), 37 attacks against healthcare workers were reported in the State in 2021-22. Fourteen each were from northern and southern districts and nine from the central districts. In reply to a question raised by Indian Union Muslim League member K.P.A. Majeed, Health Minister Veena George said in the Assembly some time ago that 140 such incidents had been reported between June 2020 and June 2021.
Loopholes in Act
None of the culprits, however, have been punished as per the Kerala Healthcare Service Persons and Healthcare Service Institutions, (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act, after it was promulgated 11 years ago, says N. Sulphi, State president, IMA. Now, the doctors have urged the government to amend the Act to declare the area within a 500-metre radius of a hospital as a special protection zone. “Quite often, inquiries are getting prolonged because of the loopholes in the Act and due to political and other pressures on police officials. We have urged the government to ensure that the inquiry report is submitted within 30 days of each incident. The punishment for culprits should be made more stringent. Within an year, the case should be disposed of. Also, special courts should be set up to expedite the process,” Mr. Sulphi said. There is also a demand to include the attacks that happens outside hospital premises and the cyber bullying on social media within its ambit.
‘Lack of trust’
Meanwhile, there is another argument that the increasing number of physical attacks against doctors also indicates a lack of trust between them and the patients or their caregivers. The widespread negative campaign in social media has been cited as another reason. The IMA is planning to train its members to have effective communication with the public. “Some of these aspects do not figure in the curriculum. We have arranged around 50 people to train our members in effective communication. Some doctors are not active on social media. The doctors need to learn how to use it to convey their point of view and create awareness among the people,” Dr. Sulphi said.