Medical Profession Is At Risk? Doctors Saving Citizens Lives, Now Fear For Their Lives!

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Medical Profession Is At Risk? Doctors Saving Citizens Lives, Now Fear For Their Lives!

Mangaluru: How safe are the Doctors and Hospitals at the Hands of Patients’ Kith and Kin?-is the question many ask after a few attacks/confrontations that have taken place recently. “If these kinds of abuses/attacks continue and immediate steps are not taken by the Government to save Doctors from unruly relatives it will be difficult for Doctors and Hospitals to treat patients with serious illness. While assaults on doctors have happened in the past, the problem has only increased in gravity, despite assurance by the authorities and higher-ups.” say doctors here in Mangaluru, who interacted with Team Mangalorean after today’s press meet which was held to discuss the Persistent Atmosphere of fear and hostile working atmosphere for Doctors managing Covid cases in Private Hospitals – Recent incidents of assault and abuse of doctors in Mangaluru and cases booked; Allegations by patient family and complaints against Doctors with police about denial of treatment to Covid patients.

‘Take Patient Problems in Suitable Manner & NOT by Abusing/Attacking Us’ Request Doctors

Patients and their families should think that DOCTORS are no GODS to save everyone in their diseases-we always try our best to save a person’s life, but all diseases can’t be cured. These incidents have demoralized the medical fraternity which thus has become a soft target for hooligans. Doctors hope people who are trusted by the public to represent them introspect deeply and show remorse. These incidents, if allowed to continue unchecked, can have serious repercussions on patient care in future and are sure to remove that much-needed compassion and care from the medical profession reducing it to just another service. It is hoped that governments take cognizance of these unpleasant developments and take remedial measures to create a better society where people/patients kith and kin are looked up to with faith and respect for solutions and not feared like criminals. Therefore during today’s press meet the doctors belonging to the Association of Medical Consultants (AMC)-Mangaluru chapter requested the general public to convey their anguish and strong message to all the authorities, and the higher-ups in the Government, to ensure Harmony is maintained.

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I am propelled to write this piece here not just because it spells a harsh future for the medical profession in India, and for that matter here in Mangaluru, but also because its saddens me that many of my friends who are in the medical profession feel that their job is kind of risky these days, because of some of the issues over which the incidents took place were either systemic or inevitable — and not remotely the fault of the hapless doctors. Many of my relatives are doctors, even my niece, Dr Viola D’Souza, who worked as HOD of Radiology Dept at Fr Muller Hospital, presently joined her husband in Las Vegas-USA., and also my cousin Dr Melwyn Fernandes, an orthopaedic surgeon in Mumbai. And my very close friend Dr Kiran Shetty-the Medical Superintendent at Father Muller Hospital-Thumbay, and not to forget yet another friend, Dr Sachidananda Rai, of Unity Hospital, and former president of IMA-Mangaluru. All these doctors should be respected as “Saviours” and not as “Martyrs/Tormentors”, which has been happening recently.

Speaking about a doctor, whom I have known for many years and have seen his dedication and commitment towards his job and his patients, I can tell that he has always been a proponent of hope and a beacon of inspiration. His tenacity has made him endure the rigorous academic cycle, competition as well as the deplorable conditions of sleeping in wards, skipping meals and several hours of being on call — all this he has done with unparalleled zeal. I have sensed his trauma as he saw his patients die every odd day when they were brought in serious conditions due to accidents etc – he tries his best to save them, but not all the time. Citizens should realize that doctors are not God and they cannot ensure success in their treatment each and every time.

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Over the years, I have noticed that this doctor has compromised on many things — festivals, marriages, anniversaries, what have you. I distinctly remember him joking that he should have opted for a Lawyer or Engineer’s profession for better financial prospects, to which he had a dignified reply: “I work for I care.” Today, for the first time, I see him question his decision to opt for medicine — not because he’s vulnerable or weak, but because he isn’t allowed to demand his right to safety. Remember when the doctors in Maharashtra held a protest against the assault on their colleagues last year, the division bench of the Bombay High Court had made a senseless statement, slamming the “no-show agitation” launched by resident doctors across Maharashtra, saying “If you (doctors) do not want to work, then resign. You are not factory workers who resort to such protests. Shame on you. How can doctors behave in such a manner?” With due respect, the verdict and comparison are imperious and leave any doctor desolate.
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Yes, Violence against medical personnel has increased over the past few years, despite a wave of state laws passed in 2008/2009 that explicitly prohibit such attacks on doctors, nurses, paramedics and hospital property- categorizing such attacks as non-bailable offenses and mandating prison terms of one to 10 years, depending on the state. As a deterrent, such laws have clearly failed. The consequences appear grave. Doctors are now less likely to take risks since the death of a patient might provoke mayhem. If a patient comes in a serious condition and a doctor spends all night in the ICU with the patient, if he dies, the patient’s kith and kin will be after the doctor’s blood. The violence has also led to growing fissures within health systems, with younger doctors resentful of becoming punching bags without adequate protection from their supervisors and institutions. Strikes may provide an outlet for outrage, but they also lead to the neglect of countless other patients.

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Meanwhile, boundaries are blurring between our country’s violent political culture and the blue-curtained hospital space. According to medical superintendents and social workers, numerous politicians like to throw their weight around crowded emergency rooms in a bid to pump up the vote bank in their constituencies. Their designated patient must get immediate attention, or else. “Don’t you know who I AM?” seems a common prelude to bullying and shattered windows, courtesy of his or her entourage. Then there are some hardcore activists groups that always want to create trouble.

On the other hand, the ignorance of police personnel should be penalized. Even if they do know the law, they give importance and sympathy to the patients’ relatives, which in my opinion, should be curbed. If you look at districts or some of the other hospitals, a resident doctor is not only the first point of contact with patients but also the one handling the maximum workload. It’s a complete failure of the judicial machinery as it chose to indict a profession on the whole, when it is incumbent upon it to offer real-time measures for the crisis. Rebuke doctors for the “mass leave” if you must, but ensure the grievances are heard, that security is provided and that residents are not overworked and underpaid. Doctors need this confidence and compassion if they are to deal with grave cases, not live in the constant fear of being lynched by a mob.

On the other hand, there are certain media that have played a major role in demonizing doctors with the purpose of peddling news. Journalism has become increasingly combative and, as a result, inditing doctors’ sans proof has been normalized. This brand of journalism sells a negative image of the medical community. Since it might be callous to pin the blame on the patient or the attendants, some media outlets find it convenient to scapegoat the physician, causing the public to start a witch hunt, no less. Such fear-mongering has sown seeds of deep suspicion in the minds of the people. For instance, among few media outlets, there has been a predilection to suggest that due to the striking resident doctors, emergency cases are being compromised, which is factually wrong as the only reason senior doctors have not joined the protests is to ensure emergencies are covered.

According to the Act, violence against doctors, medical staff and medical establishments is a non-bailable offence, attracting imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 50,000. Also, the offender would have to pay twice the amount of damage or loss caused to property as compensation. Unfortunately, with no awareness created about it, the Act seems to be followed only on paper. In the meantime, our lovely police are largely unaware of its existence. The handling of such assault is so depraved that despite several doctors suffering attacks recently, not a single conviction was made- and we saw and are seeing of all the abuses/attacks on docs still continuing and our CM nor Health Minister nor other politicians are simply remaining dumb?

In addition to jeopardizing the safety of medical personnel, violence threatens patient safety and hampers their recovery to health. Ineffective communication or delay in attending to a patient can easily drive them over the edge. Since most patients lack health insurance, at times, the diagnosis comes as a financial disaster and shocks them into emotional turmoil. This results in the displacement of anger toward the physician. Most government hospitals lack adequate security personnel. During the late hours, it is often the medical officer who plays the role of the doctor, as well as that of the security guard. There is no established protocol for tackling violence or assault incidents. Laws against doctor assault should be prominently displayed on the walls of the hospital.

Thus, in instances of patient deaths, people believe in exacting immediate revenge, seeking their “pound of flesh” using physical means rather than filing a case in courts. So what’s the cure? What can be done? Though the scenario seems gloomy, tackling the problem requires residents’ participation. Violence in any form and, in any setting, is despicable. However, acts of violence in a hospital are the most extreme and should be dealt with, with an iron hand. Hospitals are sanctums of healing and recuperation. In addition to jeopardizing the safety of medical personnel, violence threatens patient safety and hampers their recovery to health. For the better of society, doctors too — rather than giving the cold shoulder to the other aggrieved parties — should work in tandem with the government as well as the public, to tide over this crisis.

On a final note, I am sorry if I’ve hurt individual sentiments, I only want the issue to be resolved as soon as possible and for the likes of my doctor friends about their work that drives their passion. Long live the Doctors- the Life Saviors! and the present COVID WARRIORS! May God bless them and protect them during their risky service during the deadly pandemic.


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1 Comment

  1. Having worked with Thumbay group in the past. I can safely say that doctors in india and uae are considered demi gods . In UAE our great Indian doctors have to pass a rigorous course before practicing. There are good doctors as well as “text book” doctors . Malpractices go unnoticed in India but in UAE or the West these demi god’s can be sued or barred from practicing. There should be some transparency in every profession especially Medicine.

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