When a news anchor for a popular Indian news channel entered the ICU of a Muzaffar Nagar hospital following encephalitis outbreak and reported live from there, heckling and blaming the doctor working in the ICU, she not only represented a new low in Indian journalism but also reflected the status of a doctor working in ‘New-Age India’. I was not surprised when the treating doctor was blamed for everything that was supposedly going wrong. The news anchor represents a huge group of doctor critics who are there to sensationalize the shortcomings of the healthcare system and put the blame on the only one visible in the entire system namely a doctor. There are other doctor haters ready to abuse, hit or humiliate a doctor. They do it because doctors are weak, vulnerable and hardly protected by law.
A doctor working in a crowded OPD of a government hospital/healthcare facility is left to the mercy of patients and attendants. He needs to be everything-quick, energetic, polite, accurate and helpful. He needs to have a soft heart, a cool head, and a calming hand. He should be a good listener, a great counselor and an able doer. With hundreds flocking his OPD, he gets to be none of these idealists and ends up in writing prescriptions and handling attendants. A doctor working in Accident and Emergency is more vulnerable and more stressed. Without a proper security cover, he faces the outbursts of angry attendants who want their patient to be treated first, little understanding that the least sick patient may be the loudest. A doctor is abused for not treating as per the wish of the attendants. This happens in Govt. hospitals often, no wonder 70% of Indian doctors as per a study face some kind of abuse in their professional lives.
A doctor working in a typical Indian scenario is an overburdened soul. As per the National Health Profile 2018, the doctor population ratio in India is 1:11082 signifying a huge gap that exists in terms of the number of doctors that are available to the population. This gap is really wide in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. When the number of doctors available in a hospital or a healthcare facility is less and patients are more, how will justice be done to the patients? To this add a chaotic government healthcare facility, which is ill equipped andill-managed with poor infrastructure. What will be the outcome? Why would you expect doctors to do wonders in these suboptimal conditions? In a country where healthcare needs significant improvement, 10.6% of the total amount in an interim budget is allocated to defense, while only 2.2% is allocated to healthcare. Whose fault is this?
While offices of all public servants have a good security cover and are well guarded, almost all government hospitals and other healthcare facilities have a poor or no security system in place. They are not equipped to control the crowd. Attendants at will can gate crash into hospitals, damage the equipments and physically assault healthcare professionals, more commonly the doctors.
The patients need be educated that doctors are not the people who can change the state of healthcare in our population. It requires major policy decisions to bring about any change in the healthcare system. The people at the helm need an understanding of the ground realities and an understanding of the difficulties faced by the doctors at all levels. While doctors should be made accountable, the abuse against doctors should be dealt with seriously. Offenders should be punished.
Medicine is one of the most difficult professions. Its elaborate and exhaustive course structure taxes an individual physically and mentally. It is very demanding too. Doctors in the private sector might make good money, but those in the government sector are paid meagerly, they exert more and are available all the time for all types of patients. There are greener pastures available for them elsewhere in the world, where they are paid handsomely and treated in a dignified manner. If they chose to stay back and attend to poor and sick of your population, respect their choice. Your abuse and assault won’t make the system better; it will just drive them away.
In a study on the causes of violence against medical professionals in India, besides other factors, the role of journalists and the hype caused by media was seen to be a major factor provoking violence against doctors.(Medicine and Society 2017). There should be some curbs on journalists who barge into ICU’s and Operating rooms without consideration for the safety and security of patients, just for sensationalizing the news and threatening the doctors. These reporters need to adhere to the rules and regulations and respect the privacy of doctors and patients. As per the medicos legal action group, sensational media coverage due to doctors alleged negligence precipitates attacks against doctors.
Innumerable acts of violence against doctors arereported on a daily basis in India. Even a premier institution of the country like AIIMS –New Delhi is not spared. Doctors have suffered grievous injuries because of assault by attendants; a lady doctor in Tuticorin was murdered by the attendants of a patient when they attacked her with a sword. From Lancet to the streets of Kolkata there is expression of anguish over the breakpoint to which the doctors have reached. Love thy doctor and but make the system accountable by exerting a pressure on people at the helm. In the present scenario killing a doctor wont kill the ills of healthcare system because a doctor is as helpless as you all are!