‘Act to protect healthcare professionals needs upgrade’

  • | Friday | 24th November, 2023

Pune: The medical community in Pune has criticised the states inertia in tightening healthcare protection laws (introducing seven years of imprisonment for harm to healthcare personnel) following the Kerala governments move.In a press conference on Thursday, members of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) called the existing act (the Maharashtra Prevention of Violence Against Healthcare Professionalsand Protection of Property of Healthcare Institutions Act 2010) toothless.The members have pressed for urgent revisions, emphasising the need for a deterrent against violators.Incidentally, the Kerala government introduced the stringent revisions on January 17, after a doctor was brutally murdered by a patient in Kerala on January 10.Besides, the high court in Kerala also passed an order that an FIR should be filed within an hour of violence being reported by healthcare professionals or institutions and that such violence against healthcare workers is non-negotiable. There was a trigger in Kerala, thereafter the (Kerala) government made stringent revisions in their Act. Is the Maharashtra government waiting for a similar trigger like a doctors death to effect such stringent revisions? said Dr Raju Varyani, president, IMA, Pune branchPune-based senior paediatrician Dr Rajeev Joshi took the lead and filed a criminal public interest litigation (PIL) in the Bombay high court for revisions in the existing Act in September 2020.Post this PIL, the Maharashtra government, on July 13, 2021, informed the Bombay HC that three meetings of the state committee formed by the directorate health services (DHS) had taken place and a new draft of the amendment to the Maharashtra 2010 Act has been prepared and the state would like to form a new Act for prevention of violence against doctors. However, nothing happened, said Varyani.Violence against doctors and paramedics is affecting the entire healthcare services in various ways.Private hospitals opt to transfer critical patients to government hospitals. The state admitted this after a suo motu PIL was filed by the chief justice of Bombay HC in the matter of deaths of 31 patients in Nanded and 11 in Thane, said Dr Sanjay Patil, chairman, IMAs Hospital Board of India (HBI), Pune chapter. Deaths of patients can be averted by rendering optimum treatment during the golden hour.Various surveys have found that private hospitals transfer critical patients so that they do not have to suffer the brunt of mob violence , said Dr Sunil Ingle, secretary, IMA, PuneBesides, most doctors are not opting to work in government hospitals — increasing violence being one of the reasons. Government hospitals are unable to cope with the excessive load of serious patients. A sizable number of seats in medical colleges — both undergraduate and postgraduate courses — remain vacant. One of the reasons is violence because of which parents are reluctant to send their children to medical colleges, said Dr Geetanjali Sharma, secretary to the IMA, Pune.The existing Act in Maharashtra stipulates Rs50,000 penalty and or three years imprisonment for violence against healthcare personnel and institutes which medical body feel has failed to act as a deterrent.

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