What the railways thought was an “honest appeal” to doctors has, instead, antagonised them.
City doctors have lodged vehement protests against an Indian Railways advertisement urging them to carry bagsful of medicines whenever they travel by train and avail of a “10 per cent concession in fares”. They say the plea is “extremely unethical” on the part of the railways.
In the advertisement, published in two city newspapers recently, the railways have asked doctors to carry medicines and attend to patients in an emergency while in transit. In return, they can avail of a discount on their train fare.
Apart from generic names of drugs, the authorities have also mentioned some brands in the advertisement, which pharmacologists say are harmful.
“Some of these have harmful side-effects, a fact that the railways have ignored. Doctors will never come to terms with such advertisements. We would rather travel without a discount,” asserted Swapan Jana of the Institute for Social Pharmacology.
The advertisement has warned that any doctor failing “to render medical services” to patients on the train will be reported against to the Indian Medical Association. It also mentions that doctors will have to give a written declaration to the railways if he wants to avail of the discount, along with copies of his MBBS and registration certificates.
“We have already written to the railway minister and the other authorities concerned about this. We have told the railways that carrying bags loaded with medicines each time one travels by train is not feasible,” said R.D. Dubey, joint secretary of the IMA headquarters and city branch secretary.
The IMA had reportedly suggested to the railways that they commission a trained doctor on each train. “The railways should allot a cabin to the doctor and keep medicines, instead of asking us to travel with a bag of drugs,” Dubey added.
The IMA state branch has also joined in the protests and will discuss the issue during a meeting over the weekend at Siliguri. “I wonder what the railway doctors are appointed to do. The advertisement is in bad taste,” said senior IMA functionary K.K. Banik, who has also shot off a letter to the railways.
A spokesman at the Eastern Railway headquarters in Calcutta said the decision to “run the advertisement was made by the railway ministry” and the zonal headquarters had no hand in it.
“In any case, this is a general appeal to doctors for help and nothing more should be read into it,” said the official, requesting anonymity.