New Delhi: In view of the recent assault on doctors in West Bengal, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Saturday wrote to the Chief Ministers of all States and Union Territories (UTs), urging them to take strict action against any person who assaults medical practitioners.
Expressing deep concern over the recent act of violence against doctors, the Union Health Minister stated that incidents of assaults on doctors are reported from different parts of the country, leading to a sudden strike by doctors, gravely affecting healthcare services.
"Resident doctors in many parts of the country are agitating and not providing healthcare services. Agitations by doctors in West Bengal seem to be getting aggravated and taking shape of a strike by both government and private sector doctors, all over the country," Dr Harsh Vardhan said in the letter.
Stressing the need for avoiding such incidents in the future, Harsh Vardhan said that law enforcement should prevail so that doctors and clinical establishments can discharge their duties and professional pursuit without fear of any violence.
"Strict action against any person who assaults them must be ensured by the law enforcement agencies," he said.
The ongoing strike by the medical practitioners entered its fifth day in West Bengal. Both the junior and senior doctors are on strike from the past five days after two of their colleagues were attacked and seriously injured over an issue of alleged negligence at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata on Tuesday.
On Friday, doctors of several hospitals across the country such as AIIMS of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana went on a strike in solidarity with the doctors of West Bengal, demanding safe environment for them.
Taking note of the matter, Harsh Vardhan said that doctors form an important pillar of society and often work under stressful and difficult conditions.
"Our doctors rank among the best in the world and work for long hours under stressful conditions, grappling with a huge load of patients. It is the duty of the states to ensure the safety and security of doctors who assure that the healthcare needs of the society are met," he added.
Representatives from the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Delhi Medical Association (DMA) also called on the Union Health Minister.
Dr Harsh Vardhan also cited a letter, dated July 7, 2017, sent by the Union Health Ministry to all Chief Secretaries of states which contains the decision taken by an inter-ministerial committee constituted under the Health Ministry to review the issues raised by the IMA.
The committee, in its report, recommended that the Health Ministry shall suggest to all state governments, which do not have specific legislation to protect doctors and health professionals to consider one to strictly enforce the provisions of special legislation wherever they exist or enforce the IPC/CrPC provisions with the vigour.
"The IMA has raised this concern many times. Since 'police' and 'public order' are state subjects, the Central government on many occasions has drawn the attention of State governments for an urgent need for a robust criminal justice system with an emphasis on prevention and control of crime," said Dr Harsh Vardhan.
A copy of the draft of 'The Protection of Medical Service Persons and Medical Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss of Property) Act, 2017' provided by the IMA was also circulated to the states vide the 2017 letter.
Dr Harsh Vardhan also reminded the Chief Ministers and requested them to consider enacting specific legislation for protecting doctors and medical professionals.
The Union Health Minister on Friday had met a delegation of Resident Doctors Association of AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, United Resident and Doctors Association of India (URDA) and Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA), who gave a representation to him on the violence against doctors in West Bengal.
The Health Minister had assured his support and cooperation to the delegation and wrote a letter to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the matter.