Dr Shashikant Dode from Central Hospital in Ulhasnagar is the latest victim in a string of attacks in which doctors across Maharashtra have been assaulted, most often by irate family members of patients. Dode is believed to have fractured his rib, injured his wrist and eardrum and sustained several other bruises after relatives of a deceased patient attacked Dode last week on Thursday.
According to the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), 64 cases have been recorded under the Doctor’s Protection Act, 2010. Of this, the highest number — 19 — have been registered this year as of October and 14 of these attacks have taken place in the past four months.
While hospital authorities are now making efforts to ensure that every such offender be booked under the Maharashtra Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage of Property) Act, 2010, commonly referred to as the Doctor’s Protection Act (DPA), doctors say the real number of assaults on their fraternity is higher than what the recorded number suggests.
If convicted, offenders under the Act are liable for three years’ jail or fine of Rs 50,000, a stricter punishment than charges of assault under the Indian Penal Code. “There are many more assaults off the records than on the records. The police are now being pressurised to register these cases because the doctors are coercing them to,” said a senior doctor at JJ hospital.
According to Dr Sagar Mundade, president of MARD, “Hospital staff going on strikes is the most recent tactic. Of the last 13 incidents, seven times we have gone on strike just to compel the police to file an FIR (in an assault case),” he said.
According to senior doctors, in July, a notice was issued by the Directorate of Medical Research and Education after the order of the state medical education minister Vinod Tawde asking deans of all civic-run hospitals to “personally resolve the issue or register the matter with the police.”
Following the circular, Dr Avinash Supe, Dean of KEM Hospital, has personally registered at least two cases of assualt at Bhoiwada police station. “There is already an increasing workload on the doctors and now the violence is escalating. We deal with 600-900 emergency patients everyday,” claimed Supe.
“Earlier there used to be an exchange of words but now the relatives look for the closest object to use as a weapon. Relatives cannot keep patience and they always want us to take them as priority ,” said Supe, who was earlier the head of Sion Hospital.
In 2011, there were only 10 cases recorded under the DPA. The following year in 2012 there were 12. In 2013, 11 cases were reported and, last year, 12 incidents of assault were recorded under the Act. A senior doctor pointed out that the crux of the problem behind the numerous assaults on doctors that doctors cannot counsel each of patient’s relatives. “It is a civic hospital there is no time for a doctor to counsel each family. These resident doctors work 18-20 hour shifts every alternate day and they do reach their limits of irritability and there is an evident trust deficit which is widening,” said a doctor.