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Doctor’s Strike

Two doctors were attacked by a deceased patient’s relatives in a Kolkata hospital, which led to a nationwide strike by doctors called by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

What are the reasons for such incidents?

1. Laws making violence against healthcare workers (HCWs) a punishable offence already exists in many states but is left unimplemented by the governments.

2. Doctors attribute the long waiting times in hospitals as the cause of patients’ frustration and violence in most cases.

3. Health care centers have become high-pressure environments because of inadequate medical infrastructure and resources, overworked public hospitals, etc.

4. Reporting of such incidents by HCWs is exceedingly low because of a high level of unawareness about the reporting mechanisms in the hospital.

5. Acute Encephalitis Syndrome in Bihar is an example of the prevalence of problems in public healthcare system. This leads to patients being frustrated and desperate.

Which were the demands made by doctors?

1. Setting up a grievance cell and the passing of a central law prohibiting violence against healthcare workers (HCWs).

2. More security for healthcare workers and doctors.

How has the doctor-patient relationship changed over time?

1. Healthcare under a highly corporatized system has changed the ethos of the system.

2. Unregulated and unmonitored private healthcare, rising costs, inaction on medical negligence, and incidents of violence, all lead to an increasing trust deficit in the doctor–patient relationship.

3. Lack of appropriate communication skills among doctors to be able to deal with patients in critical conditions as well as their grieving relatives has impacted the system.

Where lies the solution?

1. The doctors’ demands at all such protests and strikes over the years being limited to security measures have been short-sighted.

2. The real problem lies at the systemic level and issues need to be tackled at that very same level.

3. The government needs to first ensure the implementation of the law on HCWs’ protection.

4. Needs to implement the clinical establishments act, budget for ample human and other resources, and ensuring healthcare establishments follow the basic norms as laid out in the law.

5. There is a need for change from within the doctor to raise these systemic issues and demand their resolution in order to ensure smooth functioning of healthcare.