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Kerala: Doctors on warpath over continued attacks & state inaction

Health minister Veena George, who has been under fire over the rising Covid cases, courted controversy by refusing to acknowledge the incidents
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K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore   |   Published 14.08.21, 12:48 AM

Doctors are on the warpath in Kerala over continuing attacks and alleged inaction from the state government that at one stage had even refused to acknowledge the incidents.

Health minister Veena George, who has been under fire over the rising Covid cases in the state that had managed the first wave remarkably well, courted controversy on Thursday by informing the Assembly that the government was not aware of any attacks on doctors. Her response came in reply to a question raised by Congress lawmaker Mathew Kuzhalnadan.

The ensuing uproar over the reply forced George to rectify her statement before the Assembly was adjourned on Friday by informing Kuzhalnadan that the government was indeed aware of the incidents.

But doctors’ bodies have slammed the minister for the inaccurate response in the first place.

Dr Joseph Chacko of the Kerala Government Medical Officers’ Association said the minister shouldn’t have given such a callous reply. “The person who reads such an answer should have some common sense and not give such a callous reply,” he told The Telegraph on Friday.

The Indian Medical Association that represents the interests of doctors in the private sector has also come out against the minister’s response. “She shouldn’t have given such a reply in the Assembly in the first place. She may say it was a technical error or blame the department for drafting the answers. But it was she who read it out in the Assembly,” former president of the IMA’s state chapter, Dr Abraham Verghese, told this newspaper.

The KGMOA has meanwhile threatened to shut down hospitals if any more doctors are assaulted. “We have decided to boycott all work at government hospitals if even a single doctor is assaulted again,” said Chacko.

The doctors’ body had already written to the state government seeking strong intervention in such cases that end up demoralising doctors and all the medical professionals. “To our estimate, more than 30 doctors have been subjected to physical attacks or harassment and more than 700 health workers have been subjected to abuse and harassment in the last few months,” he claimed, adding that most of the cases are either settled locally or not reported to authorities.

Two inebriated men had manhandled a lady doctor at a government hospital on August 7 in Thiruvananthapuram. A video clip circulating after the incident shows one of the men holding her against a wall and threatening that they would have plastered her to the wall had she not been a woman. They have since been arrested.

A few CPM leaders had assaulted a government doctor in Alappuzha district on July 24 while another doctor was manhandled by a group of men the following day in another government hospital in the same district.

The IMA functionary blamed the shortage of vaccines as one of the triggers for such incidents in the state that has been consistently reporting about 20,000 daily Covid cases for a few weeks.

“The demand for vaccine is far greater than the supply. This shortage of vaccine supply has contributed to a lot of issues at vaccination centres where doctors and nurses bear the brunt of people who don’t get their jabs,” said Verghese.

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