National Doctors Day is celebrated nationwide, every year, on the 1st of July. But why? This is to express our gratitude towards doctors and physicians for their service towards our well-being. Legendary physician and the second Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy was born on the 1st of July in Patna, Bihar in 1882 and coincidentally died on the very same date in the year 1962. In 1961, Dr Roy was conferred with the nation’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna. Doctors day in India was established in 1991 in honour of his birth and death anniversary.
Well, Doctors day is celebrated every year on the 1st of July but this year another day was observed, by the doctors of IMA (Indian Medical Association) on 18th of June, NATIONAL PROTEST DAY. Doctors came together against the assaults on doctors in COVID wards. IMA observed nationwide protests demanding central law to protect doctors against violence.
Doctors and healthcare workers held placards and raised slogans like doctors bachao desh bachao (save doctors, save nation) and save the saviour. Doctors and medical staff at the IMA office in Hyderabad protested wearing black badges. Doctors from AIIMS Delhi and IMA unit, Ludhiana also took part in the agitations. Various state-level protests were taking place for a long time.
Why are these protests taking place?
Let me brief you here
- Bhopal: A local politician was seen screaming at a Bhopal doctor who couldn’t save the life of a patient who was bought to the hospital at an oxygen level of 30. This left the doctor in tears and he was demoralised to the extent that he wanted to resign.
- Guwahati: A doctor at a coronavirus facility in Assam was punched, kicked, and pounded with metal trash cans and bricks, by the relatives of a Covid patient who had died, allegedly due to oxygen shortage. Locals also assaulted the doctor who was then hospitalised.
- Kerala: A police official allegedly attacked a doctor in the Alappuzha district. The official is accused of slapping Dr Rahul Mathew, who was working the night shift at the Mavelikkara district hospital, after the former’s mother, a COVID-19 patient, was brought dead to the hospitals. Doctors protest for the non-arrest.
And many more such cases went viral on social media. Assaults on doctors might not make it to the news daily, but take place every day.
What exactly did they do to get such treatment?
Grinded in high school, cracked NEET, spent 7-8 years working hard and studying in college, paid a hefty amount of fees to medical colleges or even took loans for their studies.
Who does that? Their fault, right?
During COVID lockdown when most of us were busy making dalgona coffee and baking cakes, they were out there in scorching heat, wearing PPE kits dealing with patients. Burning the candle at both ends, forgetting they have a life of their own, forgetting they have a family waiting for them, isolating themselves from their own family members, in their own houses to protect their families from contracting the virus, more than 500 doctors died during COVID, trying to save our lives. But why, just to save us. Imagine how demoralising it is for them to get beaten up by the ones they’re working for.
What is the probable reason?
- Lack of infrastructure
- Laws in place
- Security arrangements
Lack of infrastructure
The shortfall of ICUs, no beds for patients, dearth of oxygen support, the inadequacy of medicines, caretakers bound to wait in long queues for medicines at dispensaries, patients gasping outside hospitals, black marketing of almost everything required for a person to recover, our health infrastructure was crippling.
Along with the tools used to help fight COVID, there is a paucity of our warriors too. There should be at least one doctor per 1000 patients according to WHO, whereas in India there is one doctor who attends more than 1445 patients. Not just doctors, the suggested number of nurses per 1000 patients is at least 3, there are just 1.7 in India (43% less than WHO standards). This leads to overworking of doctors and medical staff ignoring their basic requirements like sleep and a proper diet.
Laws in place
Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act, also known as the Medical protection act is there in at least 19 states, which when breached can lead to an imprisonment of up to 3 years and a fine of INR 50,000. Damage to any medical devices and equipment is a punishable offence and offenders are liable to pay twice the amount of the damaged equipment’s cost.
The Act, however, fails to really protect doctors because it features neither in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) nor in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). This makes it difficult for victims to approach the police for help or the latter to file a complaint against suspects.
Doctors are not politicians with scores of gunmen and bouncers around them, who will assure their safety? Due to lack of security at hospitals and clinics, doctors and other staff are the soft targets for unhappy relatives and agitated patients.
Stepping into doctor’s shoes
Imagine yourself as a teacher who fears being beaten up to death by parents for their child’s poor performance at a test, will you even be willing to teach anymore with the same zest. I don’t think so. Hospitals are understaffed, doctors are overworked, patients are overwhelmed.
But this isn’t the fault of our doctors. They are going an extra mile in order to save as many patients as they can, making 3 patients share a bed or switching oxygen support among patients, they have our best interest at heart.
Doctors are not supposed to be accountable for the paralyzed infrastructure, that is where the leaders we vote for come into play. They’re made to work for 15+ hours at a stretch that too in a harsh environment, in a place they no longer feel safe or comfortable in.
What do doctors want?
All they want is for the government to sit with them and consider their problems.
For a law to protect their lives so that they can continue with their duties towards the nation. The implementation of existing laws.
They don’t demand banging of thalis from our balconies or something like that in order to pay our respect, they didn’t ask for showering of flowers upon them for their service, all they’re asking for is to be able to practice in a safe environment where they’re worried for patients’ life, not scared of getting beaten up by sticks.
We were always raised to believe doctors are God on land. Saving our life, giving us a new one at times, while risking their own. What they now want is not godly, but at least a humanly manner.
How can we help?
First and foremost, don’t be someone they need protection from. i.e. don’t be an assaulter.
Secondly, don’t ignore if you see someone being unfair toward them. Raise your voice, report if you see something like this.
A simple realisation that we can trust our doctors can do wonders.
Lastly, don’t forget they’re humans too. Thank them, pay your respect, or at least, just don’t be a jerk.
This Doctors day, I bet Dr Bidhan Chandra wouldn’t be proud of our country treating its doctors and medical staff like this.
Let’s all come together and promise that we’ll make the world a better place to live for our selfless human beings. We owe them.
Ending here with a salute to any doctor or an aspiring doctor reading this, and a sincere tribute to the warriors that lost their lives.
Kudos, to all of you.
You must be logged in to post a comment.