Why did 24-year-old PGIMER doctor commit suicide?

Friends and colleagues said the junior resident posted with the radiology department had been feeling ‘low’ and wanted to go home to Rameswaram.

punjab Updated: Mar 01, 2018 14:32 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
PGIMER,PGIMER Chandigarh,Krishnaprasath Ramasamy
24-year-old junior resident at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research Dr Krishnaprasath Ramasamy.(HT Photo)

Dr Krishnaprasath Ramasamy, a 24-year-old junior resident of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and research (PGIMER) committed suicide in his hostel room on Monday, February 26.

Friends and colleagues said the junior resident posted with the radiology department had been feeling ‘low’ and wanted to go home to Rameswaram. There were other problems too, Ramasamy’s father, a temple priest, said later. His son, an extremely bright medical student, had problems “understanding the language.”

Ramasamy had friends who tried to cheer him up by taking him for outings and watched out for him. No one, however, spotted the signs of trouble which finally compelled the bright medical professional to take his life.

Why didn’t he seek help? Did he really have a problem communicating in Hindi? Did the long working hours finally push him off the edge?

Hindustan Times talks to Dr Jagat Ram, PGIMER director to seek answers to everything that went wrong with Ramasamy’s life and to figure out if medical institutes, where doctors work long hours, often in extremely trying conditions, can put systems in place to ensure they are able to cope with life and not give up in despair.

Students from south do face a language problem, says PGIMER director Dr Jagat Ramr. They are, however, trained in communication skills within their departments. Last year, seven doctors sought help from the psychiatry department, but many of them hesitate to ask for support because of the stigma attached to counselling, he adds

Is there a shortage of doctors in the PGIMER. If yes, is the situation stressful for doctors?

The number of doctors has increased manifold in the last few years. Currently, there are nearly 550 faculty and 1,400 resident doctors in the institute. In the next governing body meeting, we are proposing 25% (of 550) increase in the number of posts of doctors - faculty and senior residents.

Over 50% of the resident doctors are from south India. What is the institute doing to assimilate them into the system?

Even I came from Himachal and I knew nothing about the city. One has to adapt to the new environment in case he or she wants to survive. Each one of us has undergone high stress levels when we were residents

In the case of the student, (Dr Krishnaprasath Ramasamy, who committed suicide on February 26) he just took radiotherapy on January 22 and had not started dealing with patients and was under the guidance of seniors.

Are there any language classes for these students?

I agree, the students from south face major language problems. But these doctors are given training within their departments by their seniors. There is no separate system in place to teach them the language but they gradually learn.

Is there any support group to help doctors in distress?

There is one support group started by the psychiatry department and then there is an Association of Resident Doctors. I have been told that, last year, seven doctors sought medical help from the psychiatry department. But majority of doctors do not approach the psychiatry department for help.

Why are doctors reluctant to seek help from psychiatrists?

You are right, there is hesitation in seeking help from psychiatrists. I agree, there’s stigma among them but they should seek help when in need.

Is the high inflow of patients impacting the work-life balance of doctors?

Nobody dies of hard work. These students do extreme hard work in MBBS, so I do not think that hard work can harm anyone. Even at this age, I work from 7am to 9pm. When there is so much work to do, one gets to work for long hours. But at the same time working hours should be reasonable. We have issued instructions to departments, as well.

What are reasonable working hours?

10-12 hours per day.

But over here resident doctors are working for over 12 hours...

Each department has been told that work timings should not be more than 12 hours. Emergency duties should also be posted in a way that the person is able to manage. I am not denying that doctors are not working for long hours, at times one doctor works continuously from one morning to another morning.

Any message for resident doctors ?

If they are facing any problem, they must discuss it with their seniors, resident doctors’ association, dean or director’s office. They should not hesitate to take administrative help or in stress they should not feel ashamed of visiting a psychiatrist.

First Published: Mar 01, 2018 09:46 IST