DOCTOR : No longer a Noble Profession in Bengal

16th February 2017. Following the death of Sayeta Parveen (16) admitted to the multispecialty CMRI Hospital with abdominal pain, family members went on a rampage alleging negligence. A portion of the hospital was damaged, and several junior doctors and staff members were beaten up. Since then the situation has gone from bad to worse. In another incident, a mob kicked and slapped a doctor at Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital, a premier multi-specialty facility in Kolkata. At Nilratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital, junior doctors went on strike after one of them was attacked by a patient’s relatives on September 4, 2017. Every few days there are reports of harassment of doctors in hospitals across the state. Incidents are played down, FIRs not registered, and doctors live in fear.

The West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission was conceptualized and announced by the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee at a meeting held on 22nd February 2017 at Town Hall, Kolkata in the presence of her cabinet ministers, management of Private Clinical Establishments (having over 100 beds) and the media. The West Bengal Clinical Establishment (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill was passed on 3rd March 2017. It was supposedly brought in to safeguard patients from exploitation and negligence by private hospital. However, it has only served to terrorise the medical fraternity and hamper delivery of quality health care. Doctors are terrified of being beaten up by goons if a patient dies. Thus if they feel that there could be complications, they refuse to admit the patient. There are a multitude of fraudulent claims of high cost and negligence. The Commission is unable to handle the claims. Junior doctors who are in the forefront are regularly beaten up. The police turn a blind eye. The genie has been unleashed from the bottle. Families of patients are taking the law in their own hands.

Doctors in government hospitals are also in the line of fire at all times. Many senior doctors have left for the UK and other countries as they could not deal with this fear factor any longer. The work atmosphere is completely vitiated. There is no work ethic. No security is provided to the doctors by the State.

Srinivas Geddam, a junior doctor at a private hospital in Kolkata was assaulted on August 29, 2018 by a police officer, Pulak Kumar Dutta (OC, Jadavpur P.S.) who had taken admission at the plastic surgery department for a wrist surgery. The officer hit Geddam when he was checking on his medication.

Along with medical training, budding doctors in West Bengal medical colleges are now encouraged to undertake training in Korean martial art “Taekwondo”. Around 150-odd medical students and five doctors at the Nilratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital have trained to defend themselves against relatives of patients who may turn violent if they are not satisfied with the treatment. The state’s health department readily agreed to start taekwondo training at Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College when Dr Dwaipayan Biswas, the college’s deputy medical superintendent and taekwondo practitioner, proposed training in the martial arts discipline as a way to motive doctors and help them manage stress, besides imparting self-defence techniques.  (https://scroll.in/pulse/872152/west-bengal-is-teaching-doctors-taekwondo-to-repulse-attacks-by-patients-kin-is-it-ethical)

Malda Gramin Hospital had witnessed violence against the junior doctors in July 2018 following the death of Ratika Mahaldar, a resident of Dhanrajpur village in Mathurapur Gram Panchayat under the Manikchowk police station. Two doctors and even the police were attacked by the patient’s relatives and property was destroyed.

The latest report of assault on junior doctors occurred at Malda Medical College and Hospital on 11 January 2019. (http://www.millenniumpost.in/kolkata/doctors-assaulted-after-patient-dies-at-malda-hospital-336017). Biren Sarkar, resident of Malda was suffering from respiratory distress and was admitted on Thursday night. He died the following morning. The victim’s family members attacked some junior doctors including a lady doctor,

The Chief Minister has refused to allow the poor in her state to benefit from the Prime Minister;s Ayushman Bharat health initiative although the State is unable to provide the necessary care to its needy residents. Sub divisional hospitals have been built on some places. The building is there without services of any doctors. Doctors complain of harassment, lack of security, sudden transfers, punishment postings and thus no one is willing to join the state service.

There are two associations – Doctors for Patients (DOPA) and West Bengal Doctor’s Forum (WBDF) who provide legal aid to doctors, in case they are arrested due to complaints lodged by patients’ families. The associations are trying to make their voices heard, however, without much success.

Medical practice no longer seems a noble profession. The doctors are demotivated, scared and always on edge. A concerted effort is necessary to put the system back on track.