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Pioneer law to protect doctors

Hyderabad/New Delhi, Dec. 17: Anyone who attacks a doctor, nurse or medical student will now face three years in jail, the Andhra Pradesh government today said promulgating the first such law in a country plagued by hospital violence.

The same punishment applies to those who damage property at any government or private hospital, maternity home or nursing home in the state.

“Double the price of the damaged property will be recovered from the guilty under the Revenue Recovery Act,” state information minister A. Ramnarayan Reddy said.

The law came in the form of an ordinance the state government approved today and promised to turn into an act. It prompted the Indian Medical Association to suggest other states should follow suit.

But the state’s junior doctors, agitating against an MLA’s attack on colleagues, refused to end their fortnight-long strike. They demanded a “permanent” solution, suggesting the government set up police outposts at hospitals and improve facilities so that patients or their relatives had no complaints.

Today, doctors across the state joined in the agitation by observing a virtual “bandh”. All government hospitals and almost all doctors’ chambers were shut and private hospitals were hit, too, sparking a healthcare crisis.

Reddy said that from now on, medical students would be deemed public servants and provided protection from aggrieved relatives or friends of patients. The ordinance protects paramedics and nursing students, too.

The government, however, rejected the junior doctors’ demand for gun licences.

“A gun would be of little use ó most doctors won’t be able to pull the trigger, anyway,” agreed S.N. Misra, IMA general secretary.

A few years ago, the Bihar government had offered gun licences to doctors.

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