The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Promise to keep police off doctors

Calcutta, Dec. 18: Doctors will no longer be arrested on the basis of complaints lodged in police stations, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today assured the state branch of the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

He has instructed the state police top brass to issue circulars to all police stations not to arrest or harass any doctor for alleged negligence in attending patients unless there was a specific court directive to the police.

The chief minister also agreed to amend the Clinical Establishment Act, introduced in January this year, after he met an IMA delegation led by its president Subir Ganguly at Writers’ Buildings. The team had sought his intervention to stop the harassment of doctors by the police and the repeal of some controversial clauses of the Act, particularly restraining doctors from practising in dingy medicine shops without toilets, nurses and other facilities.

Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra and minister for Employees State Insurance (ESI) Sushanta Ghosh were also present at the meeting.

Earlier, the IMA had given a call for a statewide dharna and law violation programme by doctors on Friday to demand the repeal of the Act and government directives against police excesses. Ganguly said the proposed dharna would be held as scheduled, but doctors would not violate laws and court arrest.

Emerging from the meeting, a satisfied Ganguly said Bhattacharjee himself rang up the director-general of police and the city police commissioner in their presence and asked them to stop the harassment of doctors.

Some time ago, the IMA had submitted a memorandum to the chief minister, listing at least six recent cases of police harassment of doctors in the state. Bhattacharjee had then assured the doctors’ body that orders restraining the police would be issued soon. But nothing came of it, pushing the IMA to call for a day-long dharna and law violation on December 20.

Bhattacharjee today agreed with the IMA representatives to set up special bodies, comprising medical practitioners and persons from other professions, to listen to grievances of patients or their family members against doctors accused of negligence and dereliction of duty. “If the local body fails to resolve the dispute then the aggrieved patient party may go to court for redress. We are opposed to police action against doctors just because complaints have been lodged in the thana,” Ganguly said.

Bhattacharjee also promised to amend some clauses of the Clinical Establishment Act. The state wing of the IMA is demanding, among other things, to keep private medical practitioners out of the Act’s scope.

It has also asked the government to take stern action against quacks posing as qualified practitioners of alternative medicine.

The IMA president also pointed out that doctors attached to the Employees State Insurance had not got their professional fees from the government for the past nine months.

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