GANGTOK: Two days after a gruesome attack on a cardiologist and a sanitary attendant at STNM Hospital, the hospital staff, from sanitary workers to its top doctors, joined in a silent protest at the hospital premises.
Cardiologist Dr. Sanjay Upreti and sanitary attendant Kalwati Chettri were stabbed with a knife by one Thinlay Bhutia from Tathangchen in Gangtok on December 14.
Sources said the reason behind the attack has been concluded to be a personal attack on Kalwati Chettri, who was avoiding calls from the attacker. When her phone was switched off at work, this person walked into the hospital, found her on the fourth floor and viciously stabbed her around her thigh. The doctor close by tried intervening to save her but he was also attacked.
The condition of the two is said to be critical with them being flown to Neotia Hospital in Siliguri for further treatment on December 15. The two were under ventilation for over 10 hours after the initial treatment at STNM Hospital on Tuesday.
Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay also visited the hospital and met the two before they were referred to the Siliguri hospital. The CM has assured more stringent security at the hospital premises with promises of “increased security personnel, metal detectors and limiting family visit of the patients”.
A day after the CM’s visit, doctors, nurses, sanitary attendants, and students alike along with a few doctors from Central Referral Hospital assembled at 9 am at the hospital entrance. They staged a silent protest holding placards that read, “We are humans too”, “Don’t attack the saviours” among others.
The hospital staff, almost 500 in number, wanted to take the protest outside the hospital premises but were prevented from doing so by the police and senior doctors including Medical Superintendent KB Gurung.
Later, the protesting hospital staff assembled at the conference hall where many senior doctors, nurses and paramedic staff shared their grievances that have allegedly occurred over the years at the state’s only government multi-speciality hospital.
The health workers also agreed to submit a memorandum to the state government as well as to various national-level medical bodies.
A section of STNM doctors, including the Indian Medical Association’s Sikkim chapter, has proposed for a Legislative Bill to strengthen security, and severe punishment for attacks on health care workers.
Doctors on the other end argue, “What’s the point of having metal detectors, or security personnel, when the intention towards healthcare workers are wrong to begin with. There are dark corners in the hospital like the abandoned rooms and wards or the parking lots; those areas are scary for those health workers coming for night shift.”
Another doctor added, “When the attack took place, there was no alarm system to alert the security. The attacker roamed freely after stabbing them, easily walking out of the hospital until he was intervened outside the hospital premises after a lot of time was spent.”
A nurse said, “There have been many cases of theft in the hospital but despite having CCTVs, there is no stopping the thieves. The CCTV cameras are merely for namesake.”
IMA Sikkim Chapter president Dr. Karma Loday Bhutia, while addressing the gathering, stated, “Any association, be it doctors or nurses’ association, must all come together to place our grievances and demands. We have to be united and not just for STNM but all other district and private hospitals. Protection of medical service personnel and medical service-related people…there is an Act in place which says the offence is non bailable. The process take a lot of time, we have complained this to the Health Minister. A gazette has to be published by the state government. We have to push for a Bill, that is most important.”
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