K’taka law for doctors: Poor implementation cause for continuing abuse

Doctors strike in AIIMS, The Federal, English news website
Doctors in Karnataka had staged protests in solidarity with their counterparts in Kolkata. Photo for representational purpose only

Even as the protesting doctors called-off the strike in West Bengal, medical professionals in Karnataka say the legislation brought to prohibit violence against healthcare professionals in the state, is not being effectively implemented in the state.

The Karnataka government, much on the lines of Tamil Nadu and Delhi, enacted the Karnataka Prohibition of Violence against Medicare Service Personnel and Damage to Property in Medicare Service Institutions Act in 2009.

But doctors say the Act so far has only been limited to paper. Doctors in the state raised the ineffective nature of the Act after their colleagues were abused by a youth at private hospital in Mangaluru on June 17.

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As doctors in Karnataka participated in the nationwide strike following an attack on a junior doctor by the attendants of patients in Kolkata on Monday, hospitals had fewer healthcare professionals to attend to patients. In most hospitals, patients had to wait for hours before being attended.

A youth, angered by the delayed treatment given to his relative, abused doctors at Wenlock Hospital and recorded a video of it which went viral. The police booked a case against the individual.

“The Act should have provision to immediately punish the culprit. At present, we do not see the government implementing it effectively. The answer is not to solve the crime after it happens. They should prevent it at first,” Dr H Veerabhadrappa, president of Karnataka Medical Council said.

“The government should increase the capacity in government hospitals and create enough backup for senior doctors. They should also streamline how many attendants should be allowed inside a patient’s ward,” he adds.

Despite the act being in place for almost a decade now, there have been attacks on doctors every now and then.

Last December, Mangaluru yet again witnessed a similar incident where a patient’s attendant assaulted a lady doctor.

In January 2017, Ananthkumar Hegde, an MP now, had assaulted a doctor at TSS Hospital in Sirsi, when his mother was undergoing treatment at the hospital.

Hegde later apologised for the incident after the CCTV footage of his brush with the doctor went viral. The police, booked a case against Hegde under the said Act. But the doctor who initially condemned the incident decided not to pursue the case, considering the powerful position held by the minister.

As per the act, any person who commits any crime against a medical staff shall be punishable with imprisonment for three years with a fine of up to Rs 50,000.

Meanwhile, VA Kothivale, member of Association of Physicians in India (Karnataka chapter), when people in power commit a crime, doctors cannot run behind them as they fear their career will be destroyed. And he referred to the case of how the assaulted doctor withdrew case against the Uttara Kannada MP.

“The punishment should be the same irrespective of who commits a crime,” Kothivale said.

Blaming the government’s negligence, Dr Kothivale further goes on to say that government should privatise the heathcare sector so that it is better managed.

“The government should only be monitoring the system and play a participatory role with respect to financing the healthcare facility. They should take example from other countries,” he adds.

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