- National Doctor Day is celebrated every year on July 1
- Doctors are more vulnerable as they are the first responders to COVID-19
- Doctors urge people to end the stigma around COVID-19
New Delhi: Frontline health workers, who have been subjected to criticism and violence in several parts of the country during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic attribute it to the growing commercialisation of the practice among other factors. On National Doctor’s Day, a day dedicated to honour and acknowledge the medical professionals who have been working round the clock, some health professionals spoke to ANI to examine the reasons behind such incidents.
Dr Rajiv Mehta, Vice-Chairperson, Institute of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said,
Today, times have changed, the root cause of violence against doctors is the commercialisation of the services. The trust in the doctor-patient relationship has taken a beating over the last few decades with the rise of corporate hospitals. In earlier times, the doctor-patient relationship was like that of a parent and child, but today it has changed to a customer-client relationship.
He said that the patients think they are being deceived and cheated. With too many tests and needless invasive procedures, the distrust seems to have grown. Dr Mehta explained,
Government hospitals in our country are not providing the total health benefits which the person needs. There is a vast difference between government and private hospitals in terms of facilities. They are charging taxes but their spending is close to 2 per cent of the total budget, which is dismal when compared to other countries.
Sharing his experience, Dr H Dutt, who retired from Medical College Midnapore in West Bengal, said that a “bad news is always difficult to accept”. Dr Dutt said,
Relatives of the patients always try to deny it, leading to frustration. Anybody who is dealing with that could become a culprit. So, we can say that no one is at fault. Violence in such situations is normal.
He also said that the patients and their families are usually under the impression that whatever the outcome would be, doctors must be responsible. He added,
Just because the doctors are directly exposed, they face the stone pelters who have nothing to do with the patients.
Several instances of violent outbreaks against health workers were reported in several parts of the country amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Sanket Singh, from New Gardiner Road Hospital, Patna, believes that such incidents “weaken their dedication and will to treat patients”. He said,
Violence against us breaks our heart. But our priority to serve the people keep us going. However, a little hesitation still exists and sometimes we do not feel confident to clearly talk to patient’s family members. The violence gives us a psychological disadvantage and our efficiency decreases.
On April 22, the Union Cabinet amended an ordinance to end violence against health workers, which carries jail term ranging from six months to seven years as punishment for those found guilty.
An amendment will be made to Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and ordinance will be implemented. Such crimes will now be cognizable and non-bailable. The investigation will be done within 30 days. Accused can be sentenced from three months to five years and penalised from Rs 50,000 up to Rs 2 lakh. Dr Mehta said while suggesting ways to ensure doctors’ safety,
People should trust doctors and understand that times have changed. Hospitals charge patients for the service and facilities they offer, that does not mean they are cheating. Doctors should also behave ethically and the govt must ensure laws are being implemented.
We must honour the contribution of our health professionals on National Doctor’s Day and applaud them for altering the narrative by clocking more recoveries during the pandemic.