Seek concrete steps, enforcement after yet another attack on medical professionals

The latest incident of medical personnel being roughed up has led to an uproar among members of the community who continue to feel vulnerable despite laws to ensure their safety. Last week, a group of persons manhandled a staff nurse and a post-graduate medical student, who had gone to her rescue, at the Government Chengalpattu Medical College hospital following the death of a 74-year-old woman due to cardiac arrest.

This follows a spree of similar incidents last year involving irate relatives of patients including at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (GH). Doctors have been demanding stricter implementation of the Tamil Nadu Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2008.

“The relatives of the woman who died last week alleged medical negligence. They called in others and soon, around 30 persons gathered at the hospital. They began to break the windows of the new building. A staff nurse tried to stop them but was slapped and shoved aside,” said a doctor, who witnessed the incident. A PG student went to her rescue but ended up getting thrashed by the mob. Following the incident, doctors staged a protest and relented only after the police arrested three persons.

“Such attacks are not a new phenomenon. Security is very low at the medical college hospital and in other institutions too. Last year, I saw a group of persons beating up an orthopaedic PG student at GH,” the doctor said.

Doctors noted that such incidents are common in other parts of the State too. “A doctor at a primary health centre at Kuttakuzhi in Kanyakumari was assaulted by people who alleged that he did not treat patients properly. In Chennai, a mob broke the doors of a private hospital holding the hospital responsible for a person’s death. The legislation has been of little help,” said P. Balakrishnan, state secretary, Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association.

Dr. Balakrishnan said the Act should be implemented strictly and action should be taken against culprits to prevent such incidents in the future. Provisions of the Act should be put up on boards on every hospital premises.

After two such attacks on doctors last year, GH tightened its security and installed 32 CCTV cameras at sensitive places including casualty, polytrauma, orthopaedic emergency and intensive care unit last June, GH Dean V. Kanagasabai said. The Government Stanley Medical College Hospital has installed about 15 CCTV cameras and deployed security personnel, its dean S. Geetalakshmi said.

G.R. Ravindranath, general secretary, Doctors Association for Social Equality, said security should be enhanced on the premises of hospitals and surveillance cameras should be installed without affecting patients’ privacy. “Steps should be taken to improve the infrastructure of the health system to gain confidence of the public,” he said.