‘Intoxicated' friends of accident victims often assault staff of MCH casualty wing, writes G. Anand.

Employees of the busy casualty at the Government Medical College Hospital (MCH) here anticipate weekends, and religious, and national holidays with trepidation.

Badly mauled bar-room brawlers and victims of road accidents (caused mostly due to drunken driving) abound on such days. The staff say their “worst fear” is the “equally intoxicated” persons who accompany such patients to the hospital. MCH casualty staff say they often get assaulted, abused, and threatened while tending to such “holiday admissions”.

A staff member told The Hindu that a New Year's Eve was his “worst ever” on casualty duty. That night there were more than 450 admissions, most of them injured two-wheeler riders involved in alcohol-related traffic accidents.

The patients had groups of inebriated men accompanying them. “By 2 p.m. we had scores of drunken men tottering around the casualty, hurling abuses and demanding that their friends be attended to urgently. Some were trying to find their way to the wards to sympathise with their patients,” he says.

An officer attached to the police-aid post there says there is always a temporary scarcity for stretchers and wheel-chairs when the accident rate peaks on holidays. The staff cannot attend to all the admissions at once and patients are graded in accordance to the seriousness of their injuries,” he says.

“Trouble mostly starts at this point. Intoxicated youth who accompany the patients feel the staff have ignored their injured friends. Arguments soon evolve into abusive challenges and often end in assault. Police reinforcements had to be called in on several occasions to restore order,” he says.

Hospital staff say that doctors and nurses are so used to threats and abuses from drunks that they have learned to ignore them stoically.

Often, persons accompanying injured persons (belonging to opposing political groups or criminal gangs) vent their ire on each other outside the casualty. The police say they will soon place surveillance camera inside and outside the facility to deter law-breakers.

The MCH casualty is a bleak place to work. Ambulances and vehicles bring in suicide, accident, murder, and burns victims and critically ill persons in an almost unceasing flow. At the casualty reception one gets a close-up view of the depressing side of life.

Casualty staff say that implementing a law that makes all violent acts committed against a hospital and its staff will serve their welfare better. Till, then, all of them look forward to the “dry days” of the year, when sale of liquor is prohibited, for a much needed respite from their toils.