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Who will save the doctors?

New Delhi: Recent incidents in Maharashtra have posed a serious threat to a whole professional community who are regarded as our lifesavers. In two weeks, there were at least three reported incidents of violence against resident doctors in Dhule, Nashik and Sion. In all of the three cases, relatives of deceased patients abused and assaulted doctors without being met with any repercussions.

Resident Doctors in helmets at AIIMS, New Delhi
Resident Doctors in helmets at AIIMS, New Delhi

The Sion incident finally sparked of the accumulated frustration which has doubled with serious fear entering the equation. Resident doctors all over Maharashtra took mass casual leave and services stood suspended even on Thursday, for the fourth consecutive day. This also included planned surgeries and emergency services in some cases.

Their counterparts in New Delhi leapt into the cause as resident doctors of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Wednesday came on duty wearing helmets. This unique way of protest by the AIIMS resident doctors, to highlight the issue of violence against doctors and show the solidarity with their Maharashtra counterparts, went on for the second consecutive day on Thursday, as the AIIMS resident doctors continued to work wearing helmets without avoiding their responsibilities.

“Such cases of violence have become frequent and every third doctor has experienced one. We are losing trust in the administration and more so in the people,” Dr Vijay Gurjar, a resident doctor of AIIMS, told India Medical Times.

A resident doctor in helmet diagnosing a patient at AIIMS, New Delhi
A resident doctor in helmet diagnosing a patient at AIIMS, New Delhi

According to a 2015 survey by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), 75% of Indian doctors have encountered cases of violence, over 60% of which were committed by the patients’ relatives. Apparently, the patient-doctor relationship in India has become a fragile one characterized by suspicion and tension.

“Doctors save thousands of lives everyday as a community, but who will save the doctors,” wondered Dr Harjit Bhatti, general secretary of the Resident Doctors Association, AIIMS.

Quoting increasing incidents of doctors being harassed and lawsuits being filed against them, a visibly stressed Dr Bhatti told India Medical Times, “The security guards aren’t capacitated to deal with the unruly mobs nor does the administration stand by us after such occurrences. We aren’t goons and hence have resorted to our own form of protest and will continue to do so.”

Considering such incidents, the gravest question posed is whether the society at large has failed with verbal insults and physical assaults being hurled at the noblest of professions. Also, isn’t it worth spending a few more lakhs of rupees in saving the lives of our lifesavers, on part of the administration?

In spite of the apparent failure of the hospital administration, the police, the government and the judiciary to protect the safety of resident doctors and provide them a safe working environment, most of the resident doctors continue to serve, loyal to the Hippocratic oath, unflinching in attitude. However, the people also need to realise, as Dr Harjit Bhatti said, “No doctor, true to his profession, could kill a patient with intent.”

by Sayan Nag

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