Bowing to the demand of striking doctors, the Andhra Pradesh government on Monday decided to bring an ordinance to protect them from attacks by relatives of patients by making it a punishable offence. However, doctors are continuing with their strike for other demands.
The ordinance, the first of its kind, makes attacks on doctors, nursing staff or any paramedic a cognizable and non-bailable offence and the guilty could be sentenced to three years' imprisonment.
The cabinet, which met here, decided to issue the ordinance even as medical services remained affected due the continuing strike by junior doctors at all government-run hospitals across the state.
Minister for Information Anam Ramnarayan Reddy told newspersons after the cabinet meeting that the ordinance would be issued shortly. "A person found guilty of attacking a doctor or other medical staff on duty may be sentenced up to three years in jail," he said.
The minister also announced that grievance cells would be opened at hospitals so that people can lodge their complaints.
While the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Andhra Pradesh Nursing Homes Association (APNA) called off their statewide shutdown of hospitals following an assurance from the government late Sunday of such an ordinance, the junior doctors continued to boycott their duties for the fourth day.
The junior doctors are not satisfied with the ordinance and want all their demands to be met. They complained that the government did not consult them before deciding to issue the ordinance. They are demanding the arrest of two legislators allegedly involved in a recent attack on doctors in Hyderabad.
More than 5,000 junior doctors in all teaching hospitals attached to government medical colleges boycotted their duties and staged demonstrations. Senior doctors are also participating in the strike at some places, affecting medical services.
Lack of medical care has allegedly led to the death of four patients at a government hospital in Kurnool. A child also died at the Government Maternity Hospital here, where an attack on doctors by relatives of a woman prisoner who died during the treatment had triggered the second strike by junior doctors this month.
Earlier, an attack on doctors at Niloufer Children's Hospital here on Dec 2 by a Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) legislator and his supporters had sparked an indefinite strike. The 11-day strike, which allegedly resulted in the death of 40 children at the hospital due to negligence, was called off last Wednesday following a threat from the high court to initiate penal action against the striking doctors.
IMA and APNA called off the strike after the government agreed to bring private hospitals and nursing homes along with government ones under the purview of the ordinance.