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The Supreme Court yesterday sought responses from the Centre and the Union Ministries of Health and Law in a petition seeking measures for the protection of medical professionals in the country.
The petition filed by Association of Healthcare Providers India (AHPI) has sought a direction from the Supreme Court to the Centre and the relevant Ministries to take immediate and necessary action against those who indulge in violence against medical practitioners and those who cause damage to clinical establishments.
AHPI has also prayed that violence against medical professionals be made a separate offence and that a law be enacted for that purpose.
The Bench of Justices NV Ramana and Ajay Rastogi issued notice in the petition, in the backdrop of a violent attack that recently took place in Assam where a medical professional over the age of 70 years succumbed to injuries caused by a brutal assault on him.
The petition states that while attacks on medical professionals are on the rise across the globe, India has a specific and unique problem given that the government spends very little on healthcare. Given the minimal spending, the petition states, health is not a priority in India. The petition adds,
“Meager Government spending on healthcare has resulted in poor infrastructure and human resource crunch in Government hospitals. The petitioners further submit that only 1.3 percent of the GDP is directed towards healthcare in India. As per the Universal Health Coverage NHP (National Health Policy) 2017, four (4%) percent of GDP should be allocated for health.”
There is also a huge gap between the World Health Organisation (WHO) ideal ratio for doctors to patients and the on-ground situation in India, the petition submits. India has only 10 lakh doctors working in government and private hospitals and would need another 5 lakh doctors to reach the WHO ratio of 1 doctor per 1000 patients.
Violence against medical professionals is a “manifestation of this malady”, the petition avers, going on to point out that small clinical establishments that provide the bulk of the healthcare to the people are unorganized and vulnerable to violence.
As regards the prevention of violence and vandalism in hospitals, the petitioner makes recommendations such as prohibiting bringing of arms inside the hospital, strengthening of security cover, and a proper complaint redressal system, among others. It goes on to state,
“…vandalism and violence in a hospital or clinic is a criminal offence and any civilized society should have a low tolerance for such heinous acts.”
AHPI is represented by Senior Counsel K Subramanian.