Bengal Hospital Crisis: Politics Can Wait, Not Healthcare
Video editor: Abhishek Sharma
A 24-year-old junior doctor battling for his life. Health services in the state shut down completely. Thousands of doctors out on the streets. Saviours in need of saving.
It isn’t as if the country has not previously seen medical professionals go on strike over security concerns. In fact, according to a study by the Indian Medical Association, over 75 percent of doctors across the country face violence while at work. In West Bengal itself, over a 100 cases of violence against doctors and medical professionals have been reported in 2019. Doctors on strike isn’t unprecedented in the state. Even during the Left Front’s regime.
Then, what caused this particular case to snowball? The fact is, the state government treated the doctors’ strike as a political crisis as opposed to the infrastructural and healthcare crisis it really is.
Paribaha Mukhopadhyay, the 24-year-old junior doctor from Kolkata's NRS Medical College & Hospital had his skull smashed by a brick during an altercation with the family of a patient, Mohammed Shahid, who died because of alleged negligence.
Reportedly, over a 100 people attacked the hospital on 10 June after the patient suffered multiple heart attacks and lost his life. Doctors say that the police were mute spectators during the incident.
The doctors had only begun protesting when the BJP's Mukul Roy put a communal spin on the incident. He said,
“People of a particular community carried out the attack. They belong to Trinamool, which is involved in this attack. And the doctor who has been attacked is Paribaha Mukherjee. Such attack on Mukherjee and his colleagues cannot be taken in a simple way. It is a planned move by a particular community and the ruling party patronised the attackers.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, appears to have set the tone for Mamata Banerjee and the state government’s response to the incident.
The protesting doctors had three chief demands:
- Mamata Banerjee to visit Dr Paribaha and his family, thereafter assuring the medical community of no such incidents occurring again
- Evidence of action taken against those involved in the violence against doctors at NRS.
- Evidence of enquiry against the allegedly inactive police personnel present on the spot
Given that hundreds of patients’ treatment was impeded for over a week, the demands seemed quite easy to solve. Especially the first where doctors had asked the CM to visit the critically injured doctor’s family.
However, the first time the CM spoke to the protesting doctors, three days after the incident occurred, her tone was confrontational instead of appeasing.
Sample some of the things she said:
- “These protesters are 'outsiders' who have come to Bengal to cause a commotion.”
- “If doctors don’t start work within four hours, we will take police action against them.”
- “If they don't get to work, they will be asked to vacate their hostels. They will get no help from the government.”
- “Policemen die every day. They don't go on strikes. It's a part of their job.”
What really irked doctors and everybody else was not only what Mamata said but also that she said it while addressing doctors at a different government hospital altogether, skipping NRSMCH, the epicentre of the protests.
The Trinamool Twitterati followed the CM's suit and branded the assailants as well as the protesting doctors ‘outsiders’.
To sum it up, qualified doctors are out on the streets to ensure something as basic as workplace security while both the BJP and the Trinamool somehow consider it a part of Hindu-Muslim, Bengali and non-Bengali politics.
Getting beaten up is not an ‘occupational hazard’ for doctors. Like many have pointed out on social media, doctors around the globe lose their lives or fall gravely ill because of their real occupational hazards such as exposure to infections, HIV-infected pricks... No doctor has ever protested that. However, the current scenario does not qualify as a regular hazard but is an infrastructural failure.
And doctors, especially ones at government hospitals who work extra shifts and have meagre resources, are well within their right to demand they work safely.
This is about the fundamental right to life. It's time the administration's ensures that. Politics can wait.
Also Read : West Bengal Doctors’ Strike: What Do They Want?
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