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Violence against doctors: IMA demands stringent laws

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Thursday demanded comprehensive and stringent legislation to fight the increasing violence against doctors and healthcare professionals. IMA members expressed the view that violence against medical service persons and institutions is becoming a serious issue and that existing legal provisions, including the 2010 Maharashtra Medicare Service Persons Act, are not adequate to deal with the rising incidents of violence against doctors and medical staff.

The demand was made at a press conference held Thursday by the IMA Pune chapter. During the conference, the incident wherein Dr Vandana Das was brutally murdered in a Kerala hospital on May 10, 2023, was recalled. In the wake of the incident, the Kerala government promulgated an ordinance with strong provisions after which the Kerala assembly passed a strong act for the protection of doctors. Doctors at the conference questioned whether the Maharashtra government is waiting for a doctor to be murdered in the state to promulgate a similar act.

Dr Raju Varyani, president, IMA Pune chapter, informed that in the past five years, 1,318 persons have been booked in various incidents but only five of them have been convicted for violence against doctors and healthcare staff in the state. “Serious patients are being referred to government hospitals because of fear of violence from their relatives. Patients benefit if proper treatment is given in the golden hour, for which doctors should be protected to avoid incidents like the ones in Thane and Nanded,” Dr Varyani said.

Dr Jayant Navrange, a medico-legal expert of the IMA, said that in July 2020, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by an IMA member, Dr Rajeev Joshi, seeking judicial intervention to curb violence against healthcare professionals. “The government has failed to implement existing legal provisions, including the 2010 Act, to curb violence against healthcare workers. Around five to six hearings were conducted by the Bombay High Court. On July 13, 2021, the advocate-general of the Bombay HC requested the court to give some time to decide whether the government would like to amend the act or pass a new one. Nothing has been done in the last two years,” said Dr Navrange.

Dr Sunil Ingle, secretary of the Hospital Board of India, said that it is a well-known fact that 1,400 undergraduate seats in medical colleges remain vacant and that postgraduate seats are also not getting filled. “The doctors are reluctant to send their children to medical colleges and encourage them to take up other professions. This is also affecting the public who visit the hospital for treatment,” Dr Ingle said. Hindustan Times

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