Scared & Exploited: The Quint’s Report on State of Indian Doctors

Here is The Quint’s pan-India coverage on the horrific state of our overworked and scared doctors. 

Short DoQs
3 min read

Producer: Asmita Nandy

Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan

Reporters: Shadab Moizee, Akanksha Kumar, Ankita Sinha, Meghnad Bose, Ishadrita Lahiri, Arpita Raj, Vikrant Duber, Vikram Venkataswaran

Year after year, government hospitals resound the need to save our saviours. Violence against doctors, perpetrated by patients’ kin is commonplace in India. So much so, that a 2017 survey by the Indian Medical Association revealed at least 75 percent of doctors face violence at the workplace.

However, are these isolated incidents or is there a thread that binds them together? Ground checks by The Quint’s reporters in various parts of the country exposed the deep fault line between an overburdened healthcare system and the patients who are desperately seeking medical attention.

“After a 24-hour shift, I have gone to the Operation Theatre and asked for permission to sleep. And I slept in the OT, under the table and I think it is horrible.”
A junior doctor in Kolkata spoke to The Quint on condition of anonymity 

Watch our ‘State of Doctors’ report from Bihar:

At government hospitals, junior doctors are often the patients’ first point of contact. Why are they met with threats, abuses and violence?

27-year-old Dr Atish Parikh, a third-year resident doctor at JJ Hospital in Mumbai, was brutally beaten by at least five family members of a patient on the morning of 19 May. Why? Because he had relayed the news of the patient’s death.

“While declaring the death to them, one of them blocked the ward from the inside so that no one could get in while the rest of them began to assault me. Initially, they began to hit me with their hands. Following which they destroyed the hospital property. They broke chairs and tables. They hit me with a wooden rod that was broken off the chair.”
Dr Atish Parikh 

Watch our ‘State of Doctors’ report from Mumbai:

What causes the severe distrust between the doctors and the patients? Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the lack of government policies or infrastructure gets mistaken for doctors’ negligence.

Dr Ajay Ramesh, a House Surgeon in a Bengaluru hospital says, “A patient who comes, he wants an ICU bed, but here there are 30-odd ICU beds. The patient actually needs one. And there are no ICU beds available for the patient but he would have heard a speech by the CM or someone saying, 'Go to government hospitals, Every ICU, every kind of ventilator, everything is there.' But then he comes here and the doctors are the first point of contact for them so they might think that the doctors are not doing enough to give them a bed in the ICU.”

Watch our ‘State of Doctors’ report from Bengaluru:

These aren’t new problems, but have persisted for about a decade. Dr Sumit Ray, a leading intensive care specialist in Delhi recalls how he, in his post-graduation days, some times used to work for 72 hours at a stretch. “ Number of hours have been recognised much later. During our times, there were no rules in place,” he adds.

The rules to which he is referring are from the 1992 directive issued by the Central government. Here’s what the directive says:
Continuous active duty for resident doctors will not normally exceed 12 hours per day. The resident doctors will also require to be on call duty not exceeding 12 hours at a time. The Junior Residents should ordinarily work for 48 hours per week and not more than 12 hours at a stretch.”

The directive also mentions, “Subject to exigencies of work the resident doctors will be allowed one weekly holiday by rotation.”

Listen to our ‘State of Doctors’ podcast from Kolkata:

Almost all states already have in place a law to protect doctors from violence. However, when it comes to the implementation of the same, the situation is rather bleak.

Dr Anjali, who faced patient-initiated violence in 2019, says, “Law is there but nobody follows it. The accused was never called (by the police). I was called one or two times but nothing came out of that institutional FIR.”

Watch our ‘State of Doctors’ report from Delhi:

As the incidence of violence against doctors rises, viewing it as a law and order issue is a singular approach. What might help is a major policy overhaul in our healthcare system.

Dr Atish Parikh says, “Frustration of patients and their relatives need to be better tackled by grief counselling, dedicated centres for the same on hospital premises. Unfortunately, none of these are available.”

Watch our ‘State of Doctors’ report from Uttar Pradesh :

To begin with, let’s stop considering our doctors God and empathise with them and their struggles as they fight to work safely in a crumbling healthcare setup.

Listen to our ‘State of Doctors’ podcast from Tamil Nadu:

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