Asking state governments to ensure safety and well-being of doctors, the Union Health Ministry on Friday reiterated that the Centre has brought an ordinance which was notified as an act, where violence against healthcare professionals will be registered as a non-bailable and cognizable offence.
“Healthcare workers are the most crucial resources who are undertaking the battle of Covid-19 management at all fronts…While the country at large has applauded the efforts done by the health fraternity, but there also have been examples where they have stigmatized and even violence is restored to against the health care workers. Government of India has taken a number of initiatives for ensuring safety and security of healthcare workers. On 22nd April 2020, Union Ministry of Health has issued an Ordinance to duly amending the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 providing protection to health care personnel and their property against violence during epidemics. The said Ordinance was further notified as the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act, 2020 on 29 September 2020," reads a letter signed by Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Luv Agarwal.
The letter further reads that the amended Act states that “whoever commits or abets the commission of an act of violence against healthcare service personnel; or causes damage or loss to any property shall be punished with imprisonment and with fine. Such offenses are also cognizable and non-bailable."
This decision was announced on the day when several doctors across the country held protests as part of a nationwide stir called by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) against the recent incidents of violence on healthcare professionals in some parts of the country, and to demand a central law to curb such cases.
In Delhi, a group of doctors belonging to both the IMA and Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA) stood with placards outside the AIIMS main gate to raise their voice on the issue.
In Kerala, doctors raised the slogan of ‘Save the Survivors’ and took part in the protest. The doctors, both in government and private sectors, organised standing protest in front of the Secretariat, the state administrative hub here, and in various district headquarters besides hospitals.
The Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishment (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019, which sought to impose a jail term up to 10 years for assaulting on-duty doctors and other healthcare professionals was opposed by the Home Ministry, saying the special law was not feasible as health is a state subject. “There are many central health laws such as the PCPNDT Act and the Clinical Establishment Act. Currently, 21 states have local laws, but what we need is a strong central law to protect doctors from violence," the doctors’ body said.
Cases of violence against doctors and other healthcare workers have been reported lately from some parts of the country, including Jammu and Kashmir and Assam among other places. On June 1, a doctor at a medical facility in Hojai in Assam was allegedly assaulted by attendants following the death of a patient suffering from Covid-19 and pneumonia at Udali Model Hospital.
(with inputs from PTI)