Recently, some emotionally-charged attendants roughed up doctors and other healthcare workers at a hospital in Srinagar amid covid-19 crisis. The medical staff responded with a strike but better sense prevailed as the doctors and allied staff returned to the duty “in the larger public interest”. Unfortunately, after the unfolding of the covid-19 pandemic, there have been several acts of violence against doctors and other healthcare providers. Jammu and Kashmir is not unique in witnessing the sad spectacle of violence against doctors and the healthcare personnel. Other states or UTs in India, too, have reported it. While attacks on healthcare personnel or establishments must be deplored and deterred, the multi-factorial causes of this problem must be recognised in order to reduce the discontent and distrust that underlies such attacks. In Jammu and Kashmir’s scenario, hospitals have remained overloaded and as a consequence, the doctors and the healthcare workers face multiple challenges.
The healthcare facilities are under-resourced, under-staffed and constantly stressed while struggling to cope with the expectations of patients and attendants. Poor access, uncertain availability and variable quality of care diminish respect and stir up dissatisfaction. Amid these challenges, attitude of some people, who don’t understand how a hospital functions, or how doctors are supposed to deliver their duties, compound the problems. At times, ugly incidents are witnesses where the hospital staff is manhandled and assaulted.
Apart from resource crunches, there is a need to bring accountability in the system and those at fault should be brought to book.
More often than not, assaults on doctors occur following a patient’s death. Whether the death occurred due to a serious health disorder which had a poor outcome despite the best efforts of doctors or there was an element of contributory negligence on the part of the doctors can only be determined by a proper inquiry and the same ought to be ensured on time.
Also, a strong law is needed to curb instances of the violence against the healthcare workers given the fact that doctors and paramedics are working under unfavorable conditions. The government should also ensure that the healthcare workers are not overburdened, and take all measures so that the interface between them and the patients is unproblematic. The situation would not have come to such a pass if people and doctors alike own upto their faults and it seems we are far away from it.