Attacks, Awareness

Attacks, Awareness

As the coronavirus pandemic accelerates, access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers is a key concern globally. However, healthcare workers face new challenges in this part of the globe. They are subjected to extreme violence even as there is a legal framework to protect them.
There are reports that valuable public properties such as ambulances, other vehicles involved in COVID-19 issues were damaged.  Some doctors in Budgam were even held hostage by the public and also it came to fore that some doctors were asked to vacate the hotel accommodation which they were occupying as they were engaged in undertaking Covid-19 containment and treatment measures.
Unfortunately, attacks have taken place on healthcare personnel while they were on way to localities to collect samples of people who are suspected to have been infected or have come in contact with those who have tested positive for the pestilence.
The top court, common to J&K and Ladakh, recently sought “view” taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs on “Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019 (Draft Bill) sent to it by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for the consideration.”
Earlier this week, centre announced that ordinance wherein guilty can be sentenced to seven years of imprisonment along with a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.
The Cabinet has approved promulgation of an Ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, making such acts of violence as cognizable and non-bailable offences and to provide compensation for injury to healthcare service personnel or for causing damage or loss to the property.
The ordinance proposes that within 30 days the investigation will be over and within one year, the final decision will come. The punishment ranges from three months to five years, and fine from Rs 50,000 to 2 lakh.
In terms of severe cases where grievous injuries have taken place, the punishment starts from six months to seven years, and the fine starts from Rs 1 lakh to 5 lakh.  While the ordinance seems to be right earnest, people need to understand the seriousness of the situation and the importance of these health workers in fighting the disease which has no vaccine or cure.  Despite odd, these healthcare warriors are treating patients infected with the deadly virus amid all challenges including scarce protective gear. They need more empathy, compassion, society’s cooperation and unmitigated support. Also, there is a need to have awareness-building exercises so that negative messaging and stereotyping about the disease is shunned.