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Doctors' strike needs to be handled with tact

Doctors
Highlights

No physician, however conscientious or careful, can tell what day or hour he may not be the object of some undeserved attack, malicious accusation, black mail or suit for damages

'No physician, however conscientious or careful, can tell what day or hour he may not be the object of some undeserved attack, malicious accusation, black mail or suit for damages….' The above paragraph from a reputed Journal from the USA, written 135 years ago should be an eye-opener and also prophetic.

With the Doctor's strike in West Bengal entering in 6th day, the reality is much too grim and exemplifies that the sclerosis that plagues the healthcare sector.

A murderous assault on two young interns of Kolkata's NRS Medical College by the enraged relatives of a deceased patient led to cease work by the doctor's fraternity not only in Bengal but other parts of the country for strict punishment for the perpetrators of violence against them.

More so, the strike in the state has spread to the rest of the country despite the chief minister's threats to them to return to work. Protestors reject Mamata Banerjee's offer to hold talks to resolve impasse and sought unconditional apology for her comments made during her visit.

Across Bengal, still caught up in the vicious cycle of post-election violence that has caused deaths and grievous injuries, the assault on doctors has taken an ominous, communal turn: the violence resorted to by the relatives and friends of the deceased patient is being labelled as a manifestation and an outcome of minority appeasement by the Mamata Banerjee government.

What the latest incident in Calcutta exposes is the government's failure to implement systems for the security of medical staff. The nub of the matter lies here: it would not be unfair to perceive in this failure of successive governments a kind of indifference.

Intervention of the State Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi also proved futile. Even Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urges doctors to join work, appeals to West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee to not make it 'prestige issue. Reminding the doctors of 'Hippocratic Oath', two judge bench of the Calcutta High Court told the state government to persuade the striking doctors to resume work and provide usual services to patients.

Ultimately, what the junior doctors wanted is simple: assurance of safety at their workplace. 75% of doctors in India have faced some form of violence at work due to patient dissatisfaction —as might be expected—is the proximate cause, agitated friends and relatives accompanying patients are the usual perpetrators, and accident and emergency, intensive care unit, and post-surgical wards are the most common settings for such violence.

It is painful to reflect that a critical index of public policy is largely in suspended animation and the disgrace is collective as must be the responsibility. The crisis deserves to be handled with tact and firmness. Trends are ominous if a hospital complex is reduced to a virtual battleground and the canker spreads to other healthcare establishments.

The health sector cries out for a mature response from all stakeholders. Above all, relatives of patients must realise that humans are mortal, while some may die because of medical inattention, redress lies in the legal process and not in rounding up violent mobs. If doctors stop treating emergency cases out of fear, it is the sick and dying who will suffer.

All those who are suffering are citizens of Bengal and, therefore, it is her responsibility as the leader of the state to give them a sense of security. Banerjee must rise above being a mere party leader and start acting like a leader of the people. Her response to the attack on a doctor is extremely callous.

Her telling the agitating doctors to return to work or risk facing penalties has only made them angrier towards her. She is being seen as a leader who can rush to the site of the incident after the bust of a statue is broken but remains in her office when humans are being violated.

We all know that a doctor's life is not easy, for he or she honours service over all. The Hippocratic oath is a hard master.

While physical attacks on medical staff should not only be condemned in the strongest terms with adequate penalties being levelled, and the government urged equally strongly to ensure that doctors are always protected, doctors' protests too should seek other routes than the suspension of work.

Anger, like violence, achieves little. It only allows politically polarizing forces to fish in troubled waters. As the government must face up to its responsibility of providing doctors with security, so the medical fraternity must make sure that patients do not suffer because of its actions.

Against this backdrop, as a citizen of India, I implore the striking doctors—and India's entire medical fraternity—to leverage this crisis as an opportunity to come together with their patients to demand greater nationwide political commitment to address the underlying social determinants of violence against doctors.

Javvadi Lakshmana Rao, Visakhapatnam

Mamata should act sensibly

Opposition leaders of different political parties including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee were always seen united in agitating against ruling BJP on various aspects.

But now all those opposition leaders have maintained a curious silence on the anti-national and anti-public adamant attitude based on regionalism and fundamentalist religious policies especially in view of a lawful agitation by doctors of government-hospitals in West Bengal which has started affecting health-services in other parts of the country as well with doctors of government-hospitals in other states now standing united with doctors of government-hospitals of west Bengal.

Opposition-leaders of other political parties should exhibit their loyalty to national and public interest by going to Kolkata to persuade their colleague Mamata Banerjee to mend her ways, and make strike of government doctors coming to end by expressing regret over the incident of beating of doctors and take strict-most action against guilty ones having beaten and provoking others to beat some doctors of government-hospital of West Bengal.

It is humbleness of Union Health Minister Dr Harshvardhan that he has made very humble appeal with folded hands to Mamata Banerjee for ensuring immediate end of strike of doctors of government-hospitals of West Bengal by accepting their genuine demands.

Madhu Agrawal, Delhi

Act before it is too late

The Indian Medical Association, an apex body of doctors called for a strike on Monday in protest against the recent assault on doctors in West Bengal. On whatever grounds, the strike called for is nothing short of a war against the dying patients in the country.

The doctors in the country are a respected lot and they are not supposed to resort to strike considering their role which is so vital and is of paramount importance in the health department.

The reason behind the declaration of strike by the IMA was the assault on doctors in West Bengal. This incident and its impact confine to only its locality and this issue should have ended there without dragging it to the whole of India.

Truly, medical doctors are also part and parcel of our society and there may be problems for them too. Assault on doctors is to be condemned and the guilty are to be punished at any cost.

But expressing solidarity with the doctors assaulted by declaring strike is something too much the nation can bear. For the best interest of the nation, the IMA must withdraw the strike urgently.

T K Nandanan, Kochi

II

The junior doctor's strike in West Bengal government hospitals is being aggravated and is spreading like wildfire. Some Indian state doctors union have joined the strike.

The West Bengal government does not seem to budge any further this matter. The demands of the junior doctors of the NRS hospital has not been met by either the police or the state government.

I am at a loss to understand why the Bengal government is so reluctant to initiate action against those who were responsible for this situation? Since elders, patients and pregnant ladies are the worst sufferers, I request both the parties to sort out their differences amicably before the situation goes out of control and before the strike spreads to other parts of the country. May better counsel prevail.

Sravana Ramachandran, Chennai

Treat the doctors properly

West Bengal doctors agitation for their protection and security from hooligan patients and their relatives and friends needs immediate attention from not only the authorities of West Bengal but also from all other states where incidents on attacking doctors is increasing day by day especially in Telangana too.

Doctors should be able to work in a pleasant and tension-free atmosphere otherwise it may affect their decision taking on patients treatments resulting in maltreatment or even deaths.

Doctors are not gods and the treatment depends on the state of admission of the patient which condition has to be informed to the patient's kith and kin at every possible time very specifically.

The patients real condition has to be informed as early as possible with all the impending risks if any. The advice of the patient's representatives has to be taken or else unnecessarily there will be a communication gap culminating in

unpleasant situations subsequently.

These are very important steps which should be taken up by the hospital authorities and the doctors sincerely and honestly.

If this is not done, the attacks on doctors and other medical fraternity members will certainly increase and there shall be destruction of the property.

Apart from all this the govt hospitals should be provided with more security cover and if necessary bouncers should also be deployed so as to curb confrontations between doctors and patients representatives within minutes.

The C M of West Bengal is certainly responsible for maintaining the security of doctors and she cannot take alibi under the reason of any politics or language. She should know that but for Tamil Nadu almost all other places use Hindi also and there is no restriction as such.

Knowing local language is always useful for effective service but then that cannot be a ground for not settling Doctor's genuine demands seeking protection..

Other states also should provide maximum security to the doctors or else treatment of patients will be disturbed to a great extent.

The C M Mamata Banerjee should eschew false prestige and solve the Doctors' issues amicably without further delay.

Katuru Durga Prasad Rao, Hyderabad

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