The last couple of days have seen several news portals stormed by the unfortunate news of a resident doctor at Civil Hospital, Dhule, Maharashtra getting savagely thrashed by a patient’s kin for what, we would all agree, is a systemic issue not remotely a fault of the hapless doctor.
I am driven to write this piece here not just because it forebodes of a rough future for the medical profession in India, but also because I have been a student of the same institution in one of my UG (undergraduate) years, and can sympathise with every bit of what went down on that unfortunate day.
Anybody who cares to take a survey of the multitude of such episodes would establish that the greatest proportion of such assaults happen with resident doctors, or doctors who are still in the process of honing their craft. This is perfectly understandable because in big tertiary centres such as district hospitals, a resident doctor is not only the first point of contact with patients but also the ones juggling the maximum workload. They put in hours and even days at a time, and in the process are expected to be stoical and compliant enough to earn a satisfactory evaluation from their seniors. Residents, therefore, can be reckoned to form the backbone of any such functioning hospital. If you aren’t convinced of the veracity of the preceding statement, you may try looking up for situations when residents go for a strike.
Now, what’s customary for our powers to do when they deal with any such valuable resource as residents? To protect and preserve them – for our country and our people, and to put in place mechanisms to punish perpetrators and deter people from getting unfairly confrontational with them. Abdication of this responsibility amounts to nothing short of dereliction of duty.
I can cite multiple instances which bring out how our residents hardly ever get their due, but that’s a different story. What startles me is the criminal indifference of our powers towards the perpetual episodes of such assaults. Knowing the ever sensitive atmosphere in any healthcare facility, episodes of violence and mechanisms to deter them should have been envisaged by our powers long ago. Yet, every such passing episode, which elicits widespread condemnation from both medical professionals and laymen alike, boils down to nothing more than futile protests and candle marches. Every time such horrific assaults take place, we see political powers turn into mute spectators, and do nothing more than trying to put off the fire of widespread outcry and waiting for the storm to subside. What keeps us from addressing the elephant in the room? Have we reached the heights of appeasement politics? Do we so severely lack visionaries like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar who were ready to venture out of the lane of popular perception and take firm measures to uphold what is right?
I am a huge exponent of mass awareness and education but can see things slipping out of its scope lately. What we’re witnessing today is an infectious attitude permeating the entire society, almost on the verge of becoming universal. We have far left behind the time when we could rely on effective public communication to kindle a sympathetic attitude towards our healthcare providers. Violence against doctors is evolving into a formidable nemesis of the medical fraternity of our country, and it’s time for us to urgently come up with mechanisms to provide real and tangible security to our healthcare providers, lest it shall jeopardize the future of this profession in India. I would like to solemnly call upon my fraternity to take an unyielding stand on this issue, and expect our powers to be galvanised into action before another such horrific episode follows.
The writer, Dr Soham D Bhaduri, is a medical doctor and philosophy of mind enthusiast, and takes keen interest in topics pertaining to mental health and medical education. He blogs at The Free-Thinking Medic. He was a student of the concerned medical college and hospital in his first year MBBS.
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