On Saturday, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the government was considering enacting a specific law to deal with such incidents. He also wrote to Chief Ministers asking them to frame laws for the protection of medical professionals.
The week-long junior doctors’ strike in West Bengal was withdrawn on Monday after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met representatives of the agitating medics and accepted their demands. A 12-point charter of demands related to doctors’ safety and security and the patient-doctor relationship were among the issues discussed during the roughly two-hour long meeting. The doctors also asked Mamata to take action against those involved in Monday night’s violence at the NRS Hospital in Kolkata that left two junior doctors injured. One of them is still in coma with serious head injuries.
At the meeting, Banerjee assured that adequate security cover will be provided to the doctors and promised stern action against such offenders. This comes after the Centre urged states to consider enacting a law to provide protection to doctors and medical professionals. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) had last week renewed its demand to the central government to enact a law to check violence against doctors and medical professionals in hospitals. The IMA also wrote a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah to raise its demand.
On Saturday, Vardhan said that the government was considering enacting a specific law to deal with such incidents. He also wrote to Chief Ministers asking them to frame laws for the protection of medical professionals and attached a draft Protection of Medical Service Persons and Medical Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss of Property) Act, 2017. The draft was submitted by IMA to the Health Ministry in 2017.
The Indian Express reported that the IMA’s draft proposes a ten-year jail term and Rs 5-lakh fine for violence against doctors and healthcare professionals. The apex body of doctors is currently seeking a seven-year jail term for the offence. It said that the draft law was originally submitted by the IMA to the Ministry in 2017 but no further decision was taken.
In its latest pitch for a law, the IMA has once again demanded that the Centre enact a central law to deal with such a situation. The renewed demand comes in the backdrop of NRS Medical College and Hospital incident in Kolkata wherein relatives of an elderly patient, who died during the course of treatment, attacked junior doctors. After this, the doctors in West Bengal went on a strike, demanding security cover for themselves. The IMA also launched a four-day nationwide protest from Friday to express solidarity with the doctors and wrote to Amit Shah and Harsh Vardhan to consider their demand for a specific central law.
The IE report said that provisions of the draft law are stringent. It says both mental and physical abuse should be treated as violence against doctors. It has provisions to cover hospitals and a radius of 50 metres around them. Also, home visits by doctors have been kept under the purview of the law.
The draft law has penal provisions. It makes such offence a cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and fit for trial by a court of the Judicial Magistrate of First Class. Besides, it also has a provision that offender in case of any property damage should be asked to pay compensation. It said that the offender will have to pay twice the price of the damaged property.
According to Dr KK Aggarwal, who was president of IMA when the draft was submitted in 2017, 19 states already have some legal provisions to protect doctors and many of them had even promulgated ordinances in this regard. He said that an Inter-Ministerial Committee told IMA that health is a state subject and a central law can only be enacted if some states write to the government.
“Their position was that there are enough provisions in the IPC to tackle this situation, but our position was that in public interest, doctors need a special provision. If one doctor is assaulted, several hundred patients suffer as he goes off duty,” he told the daily.
In its recommendation in 2017, an Inter-Ministerial Committee had suggested the Health Ministry to ask all the state governments to consider enacting a law to protect doctors and medical professionals.