Stop violence against doctors in India
Sporadic violence against doctors and health workers occurs across the world, but it’s usually limited to threats and abuse by patients under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Violence against medical professionals in India is unique because it’s not perpetrated by patients, but by their families and friends, strangers who join out of misplaced sympathy, random goons, and political leaders and party workers looking for the crowd’s approval. It is often physical, with a mob quickly coming together to rough up healthcare staff and vandalise hospitals. While the global trigger is usually anger at real or perceived negligence, in India it is driven by delays in treatment, doctors and services not being available, and allegations of profiteering. In the absence of adequate grievance redressal mechanisms at hospitals and medical negligence cases taking decades to resolve, if at all, frustrated families vent their frustration in violence.
If patients are underserved, doctors are overworked, as highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet congratulating “all hardworking doctors for their round the clock effort to make our society fit and healthy” on national Doctors’ Day, July 1. There are 11,57,771 allopathic doctors registered with the Medical Council of India, of which an estimated 9.26 lakh are in active service to treat 1.35 billion people. This puts India’s doctor-population ratio at 1:1,457, which is lower than the World Health Organization’s recommended ratio of 1:1,000. Till the Centre’s efforts to reinforce human resources in healthcare, such as raising the number of seats in medical colleges and relaxation of norms for setting up medical colleges in terms of requirements of land, faculty and other infrastructure, bear fruition, short-term solutions are needed to defuse the crisis.
Improving doctors’ communication skills, reducing waiting time, using digital technology for faster response, making billing transparent, and setting up a complaint redressal system in hospitals are some ways forward. Patients, too, must have realistic expectations and keep in mind that medicine is a science, and doctors are professionals, not magicians. Some patients will survive, and some won’t, irrespective of doctors’ skills or the services available.