Dearth of female ECG technicians

Last year in October a laboratory technician of the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) Imphal, Meghalaya, was sent to five-day police custody for allegedly assaulting a 12-year-old girl inside an ECG room. RIMS authorities later-on terminated the services of the accused technician who was working in the hospital on contract basis. As reported by media, the girl’s mother said her daughter was rushed to the casualty ward of RIMS following a complaint of dysentery and fever. The doctors advised for some tests to be done and accordingly they went to the Electrocardiography (ECG) room of the hospital. Mother of the little girl was not allowed to enter the room by male ECG technician and was made to wait outside. After some time when mother of the patient entered the room the girl told her that technician had sexually abused her.

Bangalore Homemaker
                Few years back there was a news report wherein a 24-year-old homemaker from Bangalore who had complained of excruciating chest pain being molested by an ECG technician. The lady was advised by a doctor to get an Electrocardiograph (ECG) done after she complained of chest pain. The male ECG technician allegedly molested this female patient while conducting an ECG at a private diagnostic center in Kogilu Yelahanka area of Bangalore. When the patient came out of ECG room, she started crying and narrated the ordeal to her husband who was accompanying her. The husband was not allowed to accompany her wife inside the ECG room by the technician. On learning about the incident, the woman’s husband thrashed  the technician leading to severe injuries including a cut on his head. A case was registered by local police against the ECG technician and husband of the patient both.

Incident at AIIMS
                The Principal Bench of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) New Delhi in 2012 dismissed a petition filed by a former Laboratory Technician of AIIMS namely Sanjeev Kumar. The petitioner while working as Laboratory Technician at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) New Delhi was responsible for molestation of an unmarried lady on 19.01.2007 in one of the ECG Room’s of AIIMS . The technician was accused of making  physical contact and advances with the female patient on the pretext of doing ECG testing . The matter was initially inquired into by the Committee for dealing with Complaints regarding Sexual Harassment of Women at AIIMS and the victim vide her letter dated 11.9.2007 confirmed her non appearance due to reason that she being an unmarried girl and did not like to recall such a crime any more. An  FIR was lodged in the matter and Mr Iqbal Singh, Sub-Inspector, Delhi Police vide his statement dated 9.4.2008 confirmed the incidence. The Committee vide their report dated 23.5.2008 also held that Sanjeev Kumar guilty of charge. After considering the written representation dated 6.9.2010 the Director, AIIMS as the Disciplinary Authority passed the order dated 22.11.2010 wherein the  technician was dismissed  from service. He later-on challenged his dismissal order before CAT New Delhi . The tribunal dismissed his petition and upheld the order of AIIMS Director. 

ECG technicians in J&K
                As there are insufficient number of female ECG technicians in J&K particularly in Government run hospitals, many female patients are forced to visit private diagnostic centers in search of female technicians. There is dearth of female ECG technicians in associated hospitals of GMC Srinagar and Jammu plus District and Sub District hospitals across Jammu & Kashmir. This is concerning female patients, as they complain that they feel humiliated and embarrassed when they are asked to undergo an Electrocardiograph (ECG) through a male technician. As reported by a local English daily some months back, many female patients said that on many occasions they have to return back home, without getting their investigations like ECG as there was no female technician available at Govt health institution. A large numbers of female patients visit the GMC Hospital and Super-Specialty Hospital Jammu daily. As reported by a Jammu based newspaper last year more than 450 to 500 ECG tests are conducted in both hospitals daily. Out of these 400 to 500 patients 30 percent patients are females. Many of these female patients are subjected to ignominy and humiliation as male ECG technicians conduct the ECG.  In Emergency and other wards more than 300 ECGs are conducted daily and majority of the patients happen to be females but most of the tests are conducted by the male ECG technicians. There are not reported cases of sexual harassment of female patients in J&K by male ECG technicians but there are large number of such unreported cases as most of the victims chose to remain silent. 

                When we have separate washrooms at all the public places for males and females or seats reserved in public transport for female commuters, isn’t it the moral duty of the Government to make available enough number of female ECG technicians in Govt hospitals especially? While making appointments for ECG technicians Government never bothered to reserve some of these posts for females. I would suggest that in future when Government plans to advertise posts of ECG technicians sufficient positions should be reserved for female technicians. Government must make enough number of female ECG technicians available right from super specialty hospitals to Primary Health Centers (PHCs).  Judiciary must also play its role in ensuring that enough number of female ECG technicians are available in Government hospitals and private diagnostic centers.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is Founder & Chairman of J&K RTI Movement