NEW DELHI: Increasing incidents of violence against doctors is emerging as one of the major factors hindering efficient delivery of medical services at a time when India’s healthcare system is undergoing a transition.
The health infrastructure remains inadequate in a country of more than 1.2 billion people and the number of doctors is woefully adequate. However, expectations from medical facilities have risen.
The nationwide strike by doctors, which has been triggered by a brutal assault on a resident doctor in West Bengal, Paribaha Mukherjee, last week indicates a widespread problem that requires urgent redressal.
“Saddled with a meagre healthcare budget, public hospitals present a dismal picture where overcrowding, long waiting time and the need for multiple visits for investigations and consultations frustrate patients on a daily basis," said Dharminder Nagar, managing director, Paras Healthcare, which runs a chain of private hospitals.
“The healthcare system in India is bedeviled by the paucity of resources. Doctors work in extreme conditions ranging from overcrowded out-patient departments, inadequate staff, medicines and infrastructure. A limited number of doctors, nurses and medical staff have to cater to a large number of patients," he said.
Health experts have highlighted that the trust deficit between doctors and patients is also gradually becoming a concern, with increasing competitiveness in health sector. The highlighting of errors by doctors, medical staff, and hospitals, as well as corruption among doctors, has further eroded the trust patients have in the medical facilities.
“With the proliferation of private clinics and the emergence of corporate hospitals, there is a growing perception that doctors are operating with the intention of fleecing patients," Nagar said.
A survey by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) in 2015 revealed that nearly 75% of doctors in India have faced some form of violence or threat at some point in their careers.
The IMA on Sunday demanded a comprehensive law to deal with violence against healthcare personnel.
“Exemplary punishment of perpetrators of violence should be a component of the central law. Suitable amendments should be brought in IPC and CrPC. Effective implementation of law has to be ensured by incorporating suitable clauses," said R.V. Asokan, secretary general, IMA.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan has also asked states to consider enacting specific legislation for protecting doctors and medical professionals from any form of violence.