Almost a month after a policeman allegedly attacked an on-duty doctor at Mavelikkara's District Hospital in Alappuzha, Kerala, the state police department suspended from service one of its personnel on Wednesday, June 9.
The suspended officer, Abhilash, who was deputed at Kochi Metro, had allegedly assaulted the hospital surgeon, Rahul Mathew, on May 14, reported The News Minute.
The assault happened when Abhilash mother's, a COVID-19 patient, was brought dead to the hospital. Alleging that his mother died because of Mathew's negligence, Abhilash slapped him.
The hospital is not a dedicated-COVID hospital but a triage centre, which works 12 hours a day from 8 am to 8 pm. It provides assistance to asymptomatic patients and those under home isolation. Three medical officers are in charge of the hospital and one doctor is on duty at night.
"On the day it happened, I was the medical officer who was on night duty. By 4.20 AM, the patient was said to have been brought in, due to her deteriorating condition. The patient was the mother of the police personnel. They had a pulse oximeter (handy equipment that can measure a person's oxygen level in the blood) with them, but there was no reading in it," Rahul Mathew told The News Minute.
Upon further examination, it was found that the patient was brought dead, according to the doctor.
Mathew also claimed that Abhilash came again to the hospital by 7.20 AM with a friend and tried to physically harm him after enquiring whether he was the doctor who examined his mother.
After the incident, the Mavelikkara police station booked Abhilash under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 43 of the Kerala Healthcare Service Persons and Healthcare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act, 2012.
Currently, Abhilash has been placed under quarantine as he tested positive for COVID-19. The Mavelikkara police station SHO (Station House Officer) said that they are yet to arrest the police officer.
"We are yet to arrest the accused because there is a Supreme Court order in May that people who are COVID-19 positive or those in quarantine should not be arrested and sent to jail in cases where the gravity of punishment is up to three years only. In this case, the patient was his mother and he was a primary contact," Prigi G Station House Officer told The News Minute.
Increasing Violence Against Doctors And Other Healthcare Workers
In the past one year, there has been a substantial increase in violence against healthcare workers. Every day, there are reports of assault against healthcare workers. Recently, an ASHA worker in Gorakhpur was allegedly abused and attacked when she went to a village to collect details of residents for the vaccination programme.
On May 31, Madhya Pradesh junior doctors staged a protest demanding safety and security from the government for a week.
Various doctors' organisations in Kerala demanded stringent action against those who are indulging in violence against frontline healthcare staff. In the above case, doctors from the Mavelikkara hospital went on a mass leave on Wednesday, June 9, demanding the police officer's arrest and questioning the delay in arresting the suspect.
Last month, the Bombay High Court had asked the government to ensure zero tolerance towards violence against doctors. While hearing a criminal Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for directions to the state to protect the doctors who are battling COVID-19, the court had said, "We have to protect the medical fraternity and we will failing in our duties as a state if we don't protect them."
IMA Survey Reveal On Medicos Worklife
According to a survey by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), nearly 80 per cent of doctors in India are stressed in their profession, about 75 per cent of doctors have dealt with some form of violence, including verbal, physical, and threats. At least 56 per cent of doctors do not get 7-hour sleep most days of the week, 13.7 per cent fear criminal prosecution most days of the week.
The Logical Indian Take
The Logical Indian urges the need to strengthen and implement the existing provisions under the Indian Penal Code to protect doctors and healthcare. In 2019, after a series of violent attacks against healthcare workers were reported, the Ministry of Health had proposed passing the 'Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage of Property) Bill'. It had contemplated imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of Rs 10 lakh against those who attack the healthcare personnel. Moreover, enacting a law would certainly give confidence to medicos to work without fear. We, as a society, need to understand the severity of the situation and appreciate the healthcare fraternity for their selfless services amid the raging pandemic.