Violence against Doctors: DMA reaches Supreme Court seeking central guidelines, compensation scheme
New Delhi: In a significant move, the Delhi Medical association (DMA) has approached the Apex Court seeking a preventive, punitive and compensative mechanism for adequate safety measures to the Healthcare Professionals including Doctors, Nurses, Para-medical, medical, and nursing students etc.
Pointing out that none of the present state/UT legislations has laid down any preventive measures and set up authorities in place to prevent assaults against the healthcare workers at their workplace, the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed under Article 32 sought the following directions-
(1) Appropriate directions to the Government and concerned authorities ensure proper and effective security system (24/7) to be installed in all the hospitals, nursing homes, medical centres, healthcare facilities, clinical and other such establishments for taking immediate action against the miscreants whenever any such incident of assault occurs and also to prevent such incidents.
(2) Directions upon the Health departments of all the States and Union Territories to issue circular/notification to have a banner/ notice board/ poster displaying the information related to the punishment and fine under the appropriate legislation, both in vernacular & English language.
(3) Issue Directions upon both the Central and State Governments to have a distress fund to grant adequate and mandatory compensation to the victim or the family of the deceased of the Healthcare workers as a result of such kind of violence/assault.
(4) Direct Government to declare every hospital, primary health care centres or tertiary and even diagnostic and pathological clinics and other such medical centres and such establishments as a protected zone to ensure and enhance security system, so that the facilities remain secured against weapons (especially firearms and knives) being brought in those establishments.
(5) Formulate a mechanism to ensure quick hearing and speedy trials of such kind of violence, assault cases against Medicare Service Personals.
(6) Guidelines to evolve an effective balanced rescue mechanism system for both the health workers & the patients (in the form of help desk ) in every healthcare/ clinical establishment and facilities to intervene immediately to address the problem/ dispute so as to prevent any unavoidable dispute or disturbances resulting to such kind of assault, violence or public lynching.
For this prayer, the petition further stressed upon issuing directions upon the Governments to develop a software/ application to work as a distress alert call or / button ( as SOS signal ) which can be installed in the mobile phones of Medicare Service Personals and any other worker employed and working in Medicare Service Institutions. So that, the concerned and nearest Police stations gets reported of the incident immediately.
Delhi Medical Association, which has more than 15000 members of the medical fraternity has filed the petition along with a Consultant Orthopedic surgeon, who is also the President of a Assam branch of Indian Medical Association (IMA).
Advocate Sneha Kalita, the counsel for the petitioners, mentioned in the petition several media reports regarding assault or violence against healthcare professionals in almost all the states of India including Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Punjab, and West Bengal.
"The frequent incidents of assaults, violence and life-threatening attacks committed against the Medical professionals / healthcare workers and such others have had a deleterious effect which results in not only build fear factor in healthcare community but also hinders in discharging their duties in serving mankind in this crisis time or otherwise," mentioned the petition.
In this context, the petition referred to the report of one of the oldest medical journals in the world, The Lancet. The journal stated, as per the petition that "nearly 75% doctors in India have faced either verbal or physical violence during their lifetime."
Even during the pandemic, the numbers of such reports of violence have been in rise. Not only there are several cases of public lynching, but also in some unfortunate cases the violence led to the death of doctors/ healthcare workers, further mentioned the petition.
The counsel for the petitioners also pointed out the recent letter by the Union Health Ministry, where it had addressed all the states to undertake a detailed review and to ensure prompt and necessary steps to be taken for safety and wellbeing of the healthcare workers owing to the increase cases of violence against healthcare workers.
The petition further pointed out that presently, only 23 States (out of 28) and 2 Union Territories (out of 8) have their own legislations to address the violence committed against the healthcare professionals. In most States/UTs (excluding Auranchal Pradesh where the punishment term can go up to 10 years) the provisions are for bailable or non–bailable punishment for a maximum period of 3 years imprisonment, the petition mentioned.
Referring to the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act 2020, and the National disaster Management Act, 2005, the counsel for the petitioners submitted that although certain sections of those acts provide for punishment against violence on Medical Professionals they are only applicable during the pandemic.
"Moreover none of these legislations have provisions for compensation granted to the victim or victim family of the deceased Healthcare workers by the Government as a result of assault / violence," the petition pointed out.
In the context of repeated violence against doctors and other healthcare workers, the points which need to be addressed as per the petition are-
(a) No provisions nor have laid down any preventive measures & set up authorities in place to protect and have safety & social security mechanism to protect & prevent such kind of incidents /assaults against the healthcare workers at their workplace.
(b) No provision for granting any kind of compensation to the family of the deceased healthcare workers or victim Health workers by the state government / or concern authorities as a result of such kind of violence.
The counsel for the petitioners has cited several grounds as the reasons for filing the petition. Some of those grounds include,
(1) The increasing instances of violence on doctors and healthcare workers all across the country,
(2) Frequent attacks on healthcare workers resulted in an environment of anticipation and emotional trauma for such dedicated workers and it may undermine the morale of such healthcare workers
(3) Attacks on doctors violate their fundamental right to life and impedes upon their personal dignity guaranteed Article 21 of the Indian constitution that guarantees fundamental right to life and liberty to every person,
(4) A preventive mechanism is essential to prevent occurrence of such incidents in the future which will further entail a proper workplace environment and restore the people-healthcare worker relationship in a more empathetic basis,
(5) A systematic safety mechanism is important to ensure the healthcare professionals the workplace safety,
(6) State has the constitutional responsibility to establish effective mechanism which could safeguard its citizen from living a life of threat and apprehensions arising out of attacks,
(7) India, being a member of World Health Organization, has a legitimate and ethical obligation to implement the WHO's guidelines for addressing workplace violence in the healthcare sector in its domestic legal regime, etc.
Thus, seeking the prayers mentioned before, the petition highlighted that "a preventive, punitive and compensative mechanism for adequate safety measures to the Professional/ Healthcare workers Medicare Service Persons( which include Doctors, Nurses, Paramedical, medical students, nursing students and any other worker employed and working in Medicare Service Institutions) is a need of the hour wherein the healthcare workers are fighting a war like situation with either limited or scarce resources."
"It is the duty of the State and the Central to evolve a scheme /holistic mechanism to ensure them a dignified and protective working space along with a safe working environment to prevent any kind of assault/violence / public lynching against Medical Service Personnel/ Professionals and the healthcare workers," the petition further pointed out.
To view the original petition, click on the link below.