Given rising attacks on doctors, 3.5 lakh doctors of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) will conduct a nationwide protest tomorrow demanding central law to protect them from violence.
Sumit Periwal, a Sikkim-based doctor, has been fighting for this cause for 6 years.
Dr Periwal has documented every known attack on doctors in every corner of India. He also started a petition on Change.org demanding Central law to protect doctors even during non-epidemic times, punishment for all those who assault doctors, a safe work environment, ease in the filing of FIR in case of assault on a doctor, better healthcare infrastructure, and increased healthcare spending among other demands.
Dr Sumit Periwal, who is a pediatric Child Specialist and pediatric eco-cardiographer based in Gangtok, Sikkim said, he took up the cause to fight against the assault on doctors and stringent laws in such cases in 2015 when a doctor was attacked in Dhule, Maharashtra.
His petition with #IndiaProtectDoctors is being supported by 12.5 lakh people, making it the biggest petition by a doctor seeking justice.
Nearly 6 lakh of these people joined his cause in the last week when the petition went viral as news of more attacks on doctors came to light from all corners of the country.
Most recently, on June 10, doctors, including female doctors, were verbally assaulted with obscene language and threatened with dire consequences by patient attendees at SMIMS, Gangtok.
Dr Periwal exclaimed that even in Sikkim, a peace-loving state, if doctors are assaulted, then the situation elsewhere must be alarming.
Highlighting a worrisome concern among doctors, he said, nowadays, when a patient becomes severe or critical, doctors worry about their safety. They think about managing the case to avoid assault, mob attack or destruction of hospital property.
Attacks on doctors have been seen worldwide, and in India, it is becoming abnormally common.
He said in a recent incident in Gangtok, attackers were arrested because of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. But what about doctors’ safety when the Act is revoked?
Dr Periwal pressed on the need for a law that will strictly deal with such perpetrators and safeguard doctors from such attacks.
“I too have faced the wrath of the mob. If it wasn’t for the oath I took when I became a doctor, I would have quit this profession a long time ago because of the negligible protective mechanisms. Trust me, many doctors feel this way. It is extremely demoralising to see these attacks and no strong action by the government. The man who assaulted a doctor in Hooghly recently told TV news cameras that he was proud of assaulting the doctor and will do it again. He had no remorse because he knows nothing can happen to him in India. That’s why we need a strong law.”
He said that more than protection against such attacks, we need to address the core reason behind such incidents.
“The main issue is that people are angry due to poor healthcare. The system has collapsed in India, with the unavailability of infrastructure and overworked doctors” stated the doctor.
Some of the main demands of his petition are better healthcare infrastructure, availability of necessary medicines, more ventilators, an increase in the number of doctors so that they can give adequate time to patients, increased healthcare spending and stopping the rampant sale of anti-biotics by pharmacies without prescriptions.
There is a need for major reform, and only the government can address the underlying issue of such attacks and violence.
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