New Delhi: The Indian Medical Association (IMA) is hopeful of getting striking doctors back to work but first wants written assurance from the Modi government that there will be a central law to curb violence against doctors.
IMA president Santanu Sen told ThePrint that his sources in the Union Ministry of Health have hinted that the government will likely bring in a central legislation. “But we want something concrete in writing before calling off the strike,” he said.
Sen demanded a comprehensive law even as Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan Saturday asked “states to consider enacting specific legislation for protecting medical professionals from any form of violence”.
The IMA had called a nationwide strike Monday as healthcare services at government and private hospitals across the country continue to be hit after doctors boycotted work for nearly a week in solidarity with their striking colleagues in West Bengal. The Bengal strike was called Tuesday after relatives of a patient assaulted two junior doctors at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata.
IMA secretary general Dr R.V. Asokan told ThePrint that the striking doctors will return to work Tuesday.
“Doctors will go back to their OPDs from tomorrow. We have made a point today that we need a law by protesting against violence for 24 hours,” he said. “We are doctors and its a noble profession. I hope, the government takes it forward from here and give us some concrete assurance.”
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IMA chief faces protests in Kolkata
IMA president Sen, however, faced protests at Kolkata’s NRS Hospital, the epicentre of the protests, as he is also a Trinamool Congress MP in Rajya Sabha. Doctors in the Kolkata hospital are angry with the TMC administration for not taking action against the perpetrators of Tuesday’s attack and were further enraged when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned of “strong action” against the protesting doctors.
Unhappy with Banerjee’s remarks, agitated doctors booed Sen when he went to meet them Sunday. They also called on him to ‘go back’.
Sen, however, told ThePrint that he understood their anger. “They are angry and they don’t realise that I am the first the IMA president who represents the organisation in Parliament,” he said. “Earlier, the association used to pursue other members of Parliament to push its case. There is no conflict of interest in my position.”
He also emphasised that the “issue is not at all communal”.
“It is not about the religion of the patient or the doctor. It is about making hospitals a safe zone for doctors,” he said. “Doctors are reacting strongly because the issue has come to a boil and must be stopped.”
IMA wants aid for victims of violence
The IMA has laid down a number of pointers that it wants to be included in the legislation. It is demanding an Act that mandates every hospital to identify high-risk violence-prone areas to be manned by an adequate number of doctors and CCTV cameras.
It also demands adequate compensation for healthcare providers who are victims of violence.
“Grievances Redressal mechanism should be established in every hospital, for patients or their relatives as well as for the healthcare providers,” Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, former national president of the IMA told ThePrint.
“In the absence of laws to protect doctors, we will be forced to not to touch the patients with critical cases,” Sen said. “The morbidity of every human being is certain. We are doctors and not magicians. If a person has died, it doesn’t mean the family will thrash us.”
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