The Indian Medical Association will continue to try to persuade the Centre and states to introduce special legislation to protect doctors from violence, IMA officials said on Monday during a 24-hour nationwide withdrawal of non-essential services by healthcare institutions.
Outpatient department services remained shut in private clinics and nursing homes, public hospitals and corporate hospitals, but patients continued to receive emergency and casualty services, senior IMA officials in Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai said describing the outcome of their strike call.
“We’ve had a tremendous response that reflects the simmering discontent about the violence and the inaction by the government,” said Rajan Sharma, the IMA’s national president-elect. “Assaults on doctors happen on a day-to-day basis across the country. The Bengal incident was only a flashpoint.”
Sharma said the IMA would continue to try and talk with the Centre and state governments seeking strong legislation that would serve as a deterrence to violence against healthcare professionals.
The IMA has asked the government to introduce legislation that would provide for seven years imprisonment for attacks on doctors.
The Union health ministry had sent a letter to the chief secretaries of all states in July 2017 citing a recommendation by an inter-ministerial panel under the health ministry that state governments should consider “specific legislation” to protect doctors and healthcare professionals from violence.
Health minister Harsh Vardhan had, in a letter sent to chief ministers last week, reminded them of the panel’s recommendation.
“Since police and public order are state subjects, the Government of India, on many occasions has drawn attention of state governments on an urgent need for a robust criminal justice system.”
The health ministry had also circulated to all states a copy of a draft legislation titled Protection of Medical Service Persons and Medical Service (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss of Property) Act proposed by the IMA.
Borana Prakash, president-elect of the IMA Mumbai branch, said the association’s national committee would determine the next course of action.
But sections of doctors are unhappy at what they view as inaction by the Centre and states. “Enough is enough,” Krishan Kumar Aggarwal, a senior physician-cardiologist and past national president of the IMA said in an email circulated across the medical community on Monday.
“It is time for the cabinet to intervene and bring an ordinance for violence against doctors at the earliest on the lines of one enacted in 19 states.”
“We had a shutdown of non-essential services,” S. Kanasabhapathy, state president of the IMA Tamil Nadu branch, told The Telegraph from Kumbakonam.
“We estimate that over 6,000 small and large hospitals and over 22,000 private doctor-run clinics did not offer non-essential services.”