IMA, doctors hold nationwide protest; Health Ministry writes to states seeking safety of healthcare workers

The IMA said that around 3.5 lakh doctors of the association participated in the nationwide protest today.

Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare today said that the government has taken several initiatives for ensuring the safety and security of healthcare workers.

Thousands of doctors today protested across the country as part of a nationwide stir called by the Indian Medical Association against the recent incidents of violence against healthcare professionals. The doctors and the IMA demanded a central law to curb such cases.

In Delhi, a group of doctors belonging to both the Indian Medical Association and FAIMA (Federation of All India Medical Association) stood with placards outside the AIIMS main gate.

In Telangana, IMA staff and doctors protested at its office in Hyderabad. Doctors in Kerala also took part in the protest by holding placards, banners and raised slogans of ‘Save the Survivors’.

The IMA said that around 3.5 lakh doctors of the association participated in the nationwide protest today. IMA national president Dr J A Jayalal had said that besides its members, a number of organisations such as the Association of Physicians of India, the Association of Surgeons of India, the Medical Students Network and Junior Doctor Network will participate in the protest.

Amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic where the healthcare professionals have been working day and night to fight the pandemic, incidents were reported from certain parts of the country where the doctors were assaulted by the attendants following the death of their patients. One such case recently took place in Assam where a doctor deployed in COVID-19 duty was brutally beaten up.

The Home Ministry has opposed the Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishment (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019 saying the special law was not feasible as health is a state subject. The law sought to impose a jail term of up to 10 years for assaulting on-duty doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Meanwhile, Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare today said that the government has taken several initiatives for ensuring the safety and security of healthcare workers. “On 22nd April 2020, Union Ministry of Health has issued an Ordinance to duly amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 providing protection to health care personnel and their property against violence during epidemics. The said Ordinance was further notified as the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act, 2020 on 29th September 2020,” said Agarwal in a letter.

The official informed that such an offence has been made cognizable and non-bailable.

“Recently there had been some reports of incidents of physical violence against doctors and other professionals/healthcare workers particularly from Assam, West Bengal and Karnataka,” said Agarwal, asking all states to review the situation and ensure that prompt and necessary steps are taken for healthcare workers.

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