Earlier this month, Bengal witnessed a deadlock between the medical fraternity and the state government over violence against doctors. What started as clashes between doctors and a patient’s family, became a nationwide protest which also spread to other parts of the country. The medical fraternity across India expressed absolute solidarity on the demands of their safety.
Now, Jharkhand is headed in the same direction. A delegation of doctors met Health Minister Ramchandra Chandravanshi on Sunday and handed over a charter of demands to him. One of the demands included the introduction of the Medical Protection Act after reports of violence and assault on doctors at Rinchi Trust Hospital where a patient was allegedly brought dead but the family of the deceased accused the medical staff of negligence.
On Friday, a 21-year-old man, Ashutosh Pandey was brought to Rinchi Hospital near Kathal More in Ranchi after he reportedly drowned in Patratu Dam. Doctors claim that Pandey had died of asphyxiation before being brought to the hospital. However, his attendants and about 100 locals vandalised hospital property and allegedly thrashed three doctors, who sustained severe injuries.
Doctors across the State on Sunday worked wearing black badges as a mark of protest against the attack on doctors at Rinchi Hospital on Friday.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) Jharkhand chapter has threatened to protest if the state government does not act on their demands for doctors’ safety.
A special meeting of the IMA, Junior Doctors’ Association (JDA), Jharkhand State Health Services Association (JSHSA), the hospital board, and the women wing of the IMA was held on Sunday at 4:45 pm at IMA Ranchi.
The motive of the meeting was to plan a future course of action regarding the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PNDT) (Dr Seema’s case in Koderma) and the agitation regarding Medical Protection Act (MPA). Around 143 doctors were present at the meeting.
Decision summary of meeting:
1)To stop wearing the black Ribbon from now onwards as police administration did a commendable job by arresting the main culprit within 24 hours on order of chief secretary of Jharkhand, much before our ultimatum of 48 hours. “We are thankful to the police administration,” the doctors said.
2) A high level delegation will meet the chief Secretary of state and submit a memorandum by 6 pm on June 24 at Project building.
The doctors listed out their demands for the state government:
A) We are hurt by the brutal attack on doctors in Rinchi hospital, when the patient attendant came for treatment of a dead body (already declared dead at CHC Patratu) and damaged the hospital. We request that the remaining assaulters be arrested at the earliest. We also request that the case of Rinchi be dealt with speedy trial in a fast track court.
B) Free treatment of griviously injured medical superintendent of Rinchi hospital.
As the superintendent will not be able to work for the rest of his life, so monetary compensation be given to him. The damage to the hospital should be compensated either by the assaulters or the government itself.
C) To prevent any future attacks on doctors and provide a safe environment for doctors to work, the Medical Protection Act should be made applicable in Jharkhand so that we can give our 100 per cent to the society.
D)In Koderma, false allegations has been levelled against Dr Seema Modi with regard to PNDT as the pregnancy was of eight months and the PNDT Act is applicable only to 3-5 months pregnancy. She has been arrested in an unlawful manner. A fact finding commitee report should be sent to court so that Dr Seema Modi of Dhanbad gets justice.
E) The Clinical Establishment Act should be implemented in practical ways. For example, a skin specialist cannot handle an emergency like a gunshot injury or a patient of heart attack.
F) Clinical Establishment Act should be applicable only to hospitals having more than 5O beds.
G) Single window certification for all clinical establishments.
J) Setting up of a police official cell number and a Nodal officer in each hospital
I) We would follow up the situation every 15 days if there are no further arrests or any action on our demands. We will plan a graded action like a protest march. Strike will be our last resort.
K) Our legal advisor will be affixed.
-IMA state and District officials
The arrest of Koderma-based doctor Seema Modi, on charges of sex determination test last month, is also believed to have irked the doctors’ fraternity. They are backing up the incarcerated lady gynaecologist and claim that she is not guilty.
Violence, altercation, and brawls between the attendants and the patients’ kin puts other patients at risk and affects the morale of the medicos, says Dr Pradip the secretary general of IMA Jharkhand chapter.
The Cabinet had approved the Medical Protection Act in Jharkhand in 2017. Later, a select committee too gave a report on it. But it is yet to be passed by the assembly.
The Act mandates imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of Rs 50,000 for attacks on doctors, nurses and hospital establishments.
Earlier, when the bill was tabled in the House, it was referred to a select committee. Further, when it was initiated again, the government itself withdrew it.
However, the meeting between the health minister and the delegation of doctors seems to have been successful this time. While it is not clear when the government will table the Medical Protection Bill or when the session will be convened, the chief secretary has directed DGP KN Chaubey to ensure the safety of the medical practitioners.
An order has also been issued to the SPs of all the 24 districts to be more vigilant and keep an eye on the security and protection of the doctors.
The intervention of the government has been seen as a major step to pre-empt a Bengal-like situation in Jharkhand. At the same time, the decision and the move of the government will raise the morale of medicos. The order to make doctors safety a priority is also set to mollify the agitating doctors for the Medical Protection Act already exists in 17 states.