Junior Doctors' strike

Kashmir Times. Dated: 6/19/2019 1:30:16 PM

The current impasse has been resolved but the problem of the doctors and patients are far from over

The impasse may have ended in West Bengal with Junior doctors calling off their week-long strike, which received nation-wide support from doctors, after meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee but the problem is far from over. Junior doctors in West Bengal were on strike since June 11 after two of their colleagues were attacked and seriously injured allegedly by relatives of a patient who died at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata. Indian Medical Association, the apex medical body, had rightly demanded a comprehensive central law in dealing with violence on doctors and healthcare staff. The incident of manhandling and beating of doctors after allegations of negligence is not uncommon, not only in West Bengal but across the country, particularly in government run hospitals. The focal issue is not only frequency of attacks on doctors but the reasons that lead to such attacks. The over-crowded and ill-equipped condition of government hospitals is no secret but has been neglected for a long time. Banerjee in her meeting with doctors' representatives accepted the proposal of doctors to set up Grievance Redressal Cell in government hospitals. She has also asked officials to start a state-wide emergency number and email id to report an assault. A safe working environment for doctors and measures to ensure that unsuccessful treatments do not become triggers for violence and assaults is indeed imperative. Such violent incidents cannot be condoned and people responsible for it must be brought to book. However, the remedy does not only lie in measures to ensure protection of doctors. Violence that severely injured a doctor is indefensible, and the guilty must be brought to book. The neglect of public health care in the government hospitals, their ill-staffed and ill-equipped conditions and the inability of the poor to afford exorbitantly priced treatments in the private commercial health sector also need to be addressed. The IMA has unfortunately remained silent on the deaths in government hospital due to one reason or the other across the country. The recent deaths of more than a 100 children in Muzaffarpur are a case in point.
The prime focus should be to combat the increasingly distrustful relation that has developed between the doctors and patients due to the several ills plaguing the health sector including malpractices and often negligence of doctors. While issues like man-power shortages, upgrading of hospital infrastructures are important, there is need for systemic delivery of not just health-care but also mechanisms that protect the interests of both the patients and the doctors. The investigation in the Kolkata case must pin-point not just the guilt of the assaulters but also the quality of treatment provided to the patient and if found unsatisfactory, there is also need to unravel the reasons for possible delay or inadequate treatment. This should be a guiding principle in all such similar cases. Secondly, it needs to be borne in mind that such incidents are not only typical in West Bengal. They are reported routinely, but ignored, from different parts of the country, revealing the magnitude of the crisis. While the medical health care system across the country needs to be overhauled, the politicization of this incident and its communalization by vested interests is shameful. Secondly, the confrontationist position earlier adopted by the West Bengal government could have been avoided and the prolonged strike prevented so that the public suffering could have been minimized. Health-care is a prime need of every citizen and all the state governments as well as the Centre should ensure that this sector and vital need of the public is not trivialized and sacrificed at the altar of unnecessary politics, much worse communalization which will have far reaching ramifications. The governments must proceed with sensitivity to the needs of the patients as well as the grievances of the doctors. This would call for structural changes in health-sector across the country.



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