On Women’s Day, when medical students, residents and faculty take the plunge to get themselves trained in self-defence, should one read more into it?
It would not be amiss if the public did think so, given the spate of recent incidents across the State, wherein doctors were assaulted by patients or their relatives, says a doctor.
The Kerala Government Medical College Teachers’ Association, in association with Swasthi Foundation, has taken the lead to train the faculty and students in self-defence. Association office-bearers say that they had been toying with the idea of giving self-defence training to doctors and medicos, especially women, for some time now.
The recent violence against a doctor in Kozhikode just strengthened their resolve that they needed to do more than just wait for the police or authorities to take action.
“The public gets to hear about only the major fracas which gets out of hand, requiring police intervention. But minor skirmishes and harassment of women medicos and faculty in wards and casualty wing by patients or their relatives — who might often be drunk — happen on a regular basis and our women colleagues feel very threatened and vulnerable,” says R.C. Sreekumar, president of KGMCTA Thiruvananthapuram unit.
“After the recent incident at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital, wherein our woman neurosurgery resident was attacked inside the hospital, there was a huge demand from women doctors that they be provided pepper spray. But we could not agree to that suggestion, especially inside the hospital,” he adds.
Instead, the idea of self-defence training found wide acceptance.
“The mental image evoked of a doctor striking a pose in self-defence might seem amusing but we want to empower them to react, if at all someone raises a hand on them at the workplace. We are training them to defend themselves, not to launch an attack,” Dr. Sreekumar says.
The KGMCTA points out that the feeling of insecurity at workplaces has been growing for the medical fraternity, especially since the law which was expected to be a deterrent against violence on doctors and hospitals, has been proven to be ineffective.
“There are at least three bars in and around the Thiruvananthapuram MCH and while on night duty, we invariably have to deal with drunk and irate men on a regular basis. In huge, overcrowded hospital like the MCH, we cannot even anticipate when things go wrong,” a woman resident says.
The law has been rendered ineffective because the authorities, including the police, go slow on pursuing the violence against doctors/hospital, because of pressure from local politicians, doctors believe.
“For now, we have reposed all faith in our right to self defence and in getting ourselves stronger,” she adds.
On Wednesday, over 60 doctors participated in the training, which was led by the Kerala Police’s self defence coach, Vinod Kumar. KGMCTA is planning to extend the programme to all goverment MCHs.