In a chilling incident last week, Dr. Payal Tadvi, a resident in the gynaecology and obstetrics department at Mumbai’s BYL Nair Hospital was found hanging in her hostel room. Frustrated with the constant bullying and mental harassment she faced at work, 26-year-old Dr. Tadvi was driven to suicide. Her family and colleagues have given testimony against three senior doctors, who reportedly subjected her to casteist taunts and slurs for months before she was took the drastic step. And yet, this is hardly the first incidence of mental abuse and suicide at a government hospital in India. In 2018 alone, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)—the leading medical institute in the country—witnessed three cases of resident doctor suicides. While in Dr. Tadvi’s case, the culprit may have been caste-based ragging, the spiralling instances of suicide in government hospitals point to a far deeper malaise in the country’s medical system.

In a letter to the central Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), the three accused in Dr. Tadvi’s death have blamed the gargantuan amounts of workload during residency terms for the suicide. The trio has further stated in their letter that if an extra work burden is branded as ragging or casteism, then the entire hospital should be guilty of the crime. This statement illustrates how an inhumane workload has become normalized in government hospitals. This is terrible. With various forms of prejudice that some students and doctors are subject to, extreme pressure can turn tragic.

At 2.2% of GDP, India has among the lowest proportions of healthcare spending in the world. The country has a very poor doctor-to-patient ratio, too. There is an acute shortage in the number of beds available in government hospitals, primary healthcare centres are largely understaffed or dysfunctional, and basic medical facilities are all but missing in rural and semi-urban areas. Grossly underpaid and reduced to doing up to-30-hour shifts without a break, government doctors need relief before they turn into patients themselves.