The state government’s Rs33.77-crore grant to step up security at public hospitals will not do much to stop assaults on doctors. Reason: Most attacks on doctors have happened at unguarded district and sub-district hospitals, while only 20% of the assault cases have taken place at the government medical colleges (GMC) set to get the bulk of the security funds.
Maharashtra has 16 GMCs, but there are more than 100 district and sub district-hospitals, of which 23 are civil (district) hospitals. Of the sub-district hospitals, four have 200 beds, 28 have 100 beds and 28 have 50 beds. The state also has 12 women’s hospitals.
While more than 1,500 professional security personnel from the Maharashtra State Security Corporation (MSSC) will man the GMCs after April 30, there is very little security at the district and sub-district hospitals, at which more than 33 attacks have taken place since January. However, owing to lack of unity among doctors and little support from influential organisations such as the Indian Medical Association (IMA) — which took over the protests of resident doctors — staff at smaller hospitals are in a vulnerable position.
One attack every three days:
The data on attacks on doctors was compiled by the Maharashtra State Gazetted Medical Officers Organisation (MAGMO), an association of doctors employed by the state government. Dr Rajesh Gaikwad, MAGMO president, said their demand for adequate security dates back to 2009.
“There is no manpower, no fixed hours and doctors work for 24 to 48 hours at a stretch. There have been 33 assaults on doctors, born purely out of miscommunication or misunderstanding between doctors and patients. Despite repeated requests, not even 2% of these hospitals have a CCTV camera surveillance system which can record assaults and be used as evidence,” said Dr Gaikwad.
Poor security measures:
Of all the reported assaults in 2017, only two — which took place at Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital and Medical College, Sion — were against doctors from a GMC. Other cases in Latur, Nashik, Dhule, Sangli, Pune, Jalgaon and Thane have taken place at district and sub-district hospitals, which do not have more than two to three security guards at a time. Allegedly, the security measures were not stepped up even after the attacks. The medical superintendent of the hospitals conducted several meetings with health and police officials.
In a recent case, a mob of 25 to 30 people thrashed Dr Rahul Patil, two trainee doctors and a nurse at Nashik General Hospital. The hospital’s 700 employees called for an immediate strike, which was called off after assurances by the health department. While the hospitals have been allotted 18 guards, only four work are on duty at a time and local police officials do not provide additional security. “We have demanded more security personnel from the superintendent of police, but are yet to hear from him,” said Dr Said P Jagdale, medical superintendent of the hospital.
A top official from the public health department said resident doctors were able to get their demands fulfilled by pressuring medical services and as the attacks took place in a megacity such as Mumbai. “Events in big cities draw political attention and gain the support of influential bodies such as the IMA. At the same time, resident doctors know that they don’t fall under the jurisdiction of Maharashtra Medical Council and can’t be booked under laws such as the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA), which deters the employees of smaller hospitals from going on strike,” said the official.
IMA officials said they are waiting for the assembly session to end and only then will they bring up the issue of providing security at civil and sub-district hospitals “We discussed the issue with the chief minister. He promised us that it will be discussed. We will take up the matter with the medical education department, CM and public health department,” said Dr Ashok Tambe, IMA president.
Top officials from Directorate of Health Services (DHS) admitted that currently, there are no fixed dates by which security measures for district and sub-district hospitals will be implemented. However, they said they have prepared plans. “The issue was raised during the strike. We have approached the MSSC to review the security situation. We are looking for an IPS officer who can head the committee and prepare a report. Once the assembly session is over, I’ll take up the matter with top officials,” said Dr Satish Pawar, director, DHS.