Rising Violence Against Medicos in times of Coronavirus: IMA issues White Alert, find nurses support
New Delhi: With no end to this horrific menace of violence against doctors, while they are at the frontline and putting in every possible effort in this national response against COVID-19; the Indian Medical Association has once again moved the Central Government asking it to enact central law for the protection of doctors.
Calling for an immediate end to violence and abuse against doctors and medical professionals across the country, the IMA declared that doctors and medical professionals across the country will light a candle at 9 pm on April 22 as protest and vigil against this evil of assault.
The IMA termed it as 'White Alert' to the nation. It said that doctors across the country will work with black badges on April 23 and declare it as 'Black Day' if the government fails to enact central law on violence against doctors and hospitals.
Earlier, the IMA had written to Home Minister Amit Shah demanding to bring a central legislation to strictly deal with such issues.
Medical Dialogues has repeatedly reported about the issue, with the doctors constantly demanding that there be one common law on the issue of violence against healthcare workers. Last year, the health ministry had also drafted a bill on the matter. The Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019, which seeks to punish people who assault on-duty doctors and other healthcare professionals by imposing a jail term of up to 10 years was dismissed by the Home Ministry during an inter-ministerial consultation over the draft law.
However, the Ministry of Home Affairs had rejected bill calling for central law stating that there is no need for a separate law for violence against doctors, and if the same comes into play, other fraternities such as lawyers and police will also start demanding the same.
Now, the association decided to take the extreme step considering the safety of doctors and healthcare personnel amid coronavirus pandemic. What triggered the association was a recent incident in Chennai wherein a 55-year-old neurosurgeon's burial was protested by the locals. The doctor has contracted COVID 19 while treating a patient.
An orthopaedic surgeon had to bury his associate, a neurosurgeon who died of COVID-19 here, in the middle of the night using his bare hands and a shovel at a crematorium with the help of just two hospital wardboys after the undertakers fled when a mob, protesting the interment, attacked them, reported PTI. Their opposition was due to a misconception that the contagion may spread in their neighbourhood if the virus victim's burial took place. The windscreens of the ambulance in which the body of the neurosurgeon was brought to the crematorium on Sunday night were smashed and even the casket was not spared. They attacked the undertakers and corporation sanitation officials, among others, using bricks, stones, bottles and sticks and chased them away.
Previously, a similar protest had been observed during the cremation of an orthopaedic surgeon (in Chennai) from Nellore district in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.
"The IMA has maintained utmost restraint and patience inspite of extreme provocations. Doctors have been abused, beaten up, denied entry and residence. Obstruction to cremation is the last straw that IMA can bear," a statement released by the IMA read.
Speaking about the atrocities faced by the healthcare workers amid the coronavirus pandemic, IMA President Rajan Sharma told IANS, "IMA has shown much restraint in spite of extreme provocations. That doesn't mean our patience is endless. Abuse, violence, spitting, pelting of stones, denial of entry to societies and residential accommodations have been tolerated so far since we expected the governments to do their normal duty. "When they are unable to discharge their constitutional obligations, perhaps these are not normal times. Denial of dignity in death is the ultimate sacrilege."
IMA Secretary General R.V. Asokan had stated, "While all other interventions have already been withdrawn, it is very unfortunate if more services are going to be withheld for non-medical reasons. The state governments concerned are better warned to perform their constitutional duties as expected. Failing which IMA has no option but to resort to drastic steps to protect the rights of the medical professionals. Appropriate retaliatory measures will be decided if the constitutional machinery breaks down."
Sharma said that the society must realise that doctors are rendering services at extreme risk to themselves. No nation sends its army to war without weapons.
"Doctors, nurses and healthcare workers of this country have been sent to fight against COVID-19 without PPE kits and they are dying young defending their people. If the value of such services are not realised, the easiest thing for the doctor community will be to sit at home," he said.
The releases declaring this effect are attached below:
The association also took to twitter making an official announcement about the alert:
Meanwhile, showing solidarity to the White Alert, the Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI) has issued a statement declaring its support and asking for central law for the protection of health care workers.
"Many incidents arised in the country so far, still a concrete action against these attacks are not initiated by Central government. Health care work force are the frontline warriors in the fight against corona virus and are to be saluted like the army on a war front. But demotivating atrocities like what happened in Chennai during the cremation of doctors mortal remains and incidents in which nurses were asked to vacate the rented facilities and such other incidents will affect their morale in rendering the care," TNAI stated
"In many states, the nurses and the doctors are not properly secured against the violence from the public and were subjected to attack by the local people. Many of the health workers on the community for screening the cases were reported to be blocked or attacked and still it's going on and the last one was reported from Tamil Nadu, were the cremation of the health care worker is obstructed. IMA National office has requested TNAI support for the White Alert declared by IMA on 22/04/2020 and TNAI National office has decided to support the movement, the statement read.