Shobita Dhar| TNN | Oct 26, 2015, 09.38 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Three out of four medicos in India say they have been attacked at work by disgruntled attendants, finds an IMA study.

On October 16, Dr Karma Bhutiya, an orthopaedic resident at Pune’s Sassoon hospital, was roughed up by a police constable who was there with a patient. According to Bhutiya, he had accidentally brushed past the constable. This had enraged him so much that he slapped Bhutiya several times and even beat him up with a stick.

In the wee hours of September 25, relatives of three-year-old Abu Sufian, who succumbed to dengue at KEM hospital in Mumbai, attacked three doctors in the paediatric ward with wooden sticks and hospital chairs.

Dr Sandeep Amale and Dr Kiran Naik, doctors at Lifeline hospital in Panvel, were assaulted in April by relatives of a 75-year-old woman who had died after receiving treatment. The relatives broke Amale’s nose and he had to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). According to a study conducted this year by the Indian Medical Association, 75% of surveyed doctors in India have suffered some form of physical violence while on duty. Almost half of these assaults were reported from ICUs. Angry attendants of patients have hurled chairs and abuses at doctors, and rampaged through the wards breaking medicine bottles and overturning tables.

In India, the patient-doctor ratio is already low — 1 per 1,000 — so why is this scarce critical resource under attack?

Doctors say that majority of such attacks are reported from government hospitals which deal with very high volumes of patients who come typically from impoverished backgrounds and have little or no knowledge of healthcare. “They feel that if their patient has been admitted to the ICU, then no matter what the condition, the doctors will cure him or her,”  says         Dr Dheeraj Mulchandani, a Mumbai-based surgeon who survived an assault during his residency days at Rajawadi general hospital in Ghatkopar. “An auto rickshaw driver was once brought to the ER very late at night with a head injury, and he died. His friends and relatives threw chairs at us,” recalls Mulchandani. He feels that better communication with a patient’s attendants can help prevent such flare-ups.

Corporatization of healthcare in the past decade has resulted in increased attacks on doctors, says Dr KK Aggarwal, spokesperson of IMA. “People have now started equating money with good medical care. They get agitated if their patient doesn’t survive or improve despite spending on treatment,” explains Aggarwal. In states like UP and Bihar, some doctors admitted to have been kidnapped though the reasons could not be established through their responses.
While the survey, with a sample size of 500, was a preliminary one conducted to determine the severity of the problem, the IMA has decided to take up the issue with the government. It will start a ‘satyagrah’ from November 16 to demand more stringent laws. Dr Narendra Agarwal, a chest surgeon at Medanta, says that attacking a doctor on duty should be a non-bailable offence. He says that even women doctors and nurses aren’t spared and recalls an incident where a female gynaecologist at a Delhi government hospital was hit by attendants of a woman who had given a stillbirth.

Globally, too, such attacks are not uncommon. In the US, about 80% of nurses reported being attacked while on duty in 2014. One in 10 physicians in the UK experienced violence at work, as per a 2008 study. China made headlines with a startling 23% yearly rise in violence against medical personnel between 2002 and 2012.

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