On Doctors' Day, public health experts, including doctors from the AIIMS, Monday demanded higher budgetary allocation to the health sector for upgrading infrastructure and ensuring proper working conditions and checking violence against the medical fraternity. The demands came during a panel discussion organised by the AIIMS Front for Social Consciousness on the campus of country's premiere medical institution in the national capital, and in the backdrop of rising incidents of assault on doctors.
Even in the national capital, doctors at the North Delhi Municipal Corporation-run Hindu Rao hospital have been protesting since Sunday after two of their colleagues were allegedly beaten up the previous night by relatives of a patient, who died at the facility. Professor at Emergency Medicine, Dr LR Murmu stressed on the need for more funding in the health sector and a strong political will to address issues like shortage of manpower and infrastructure.
"The solutions to check such cases of violence that have emerged from the current debates highlight the need for upgrading the health infrastructure and recruitment of more doctors to reduce the doctor-patient gap.
"But all these are policy decisions which will require a strong political will. There has to be higher budgetary allocation in the health sector to fulfil these requirements," Dr Murmu said.
"Unless that happens, the situation on the ground will remain the same, the waiting time will not reduce, there will shortage of beds and overcrowding. And then it's just a matter of wrong time and wrong place," he explained.
He further urged resident doctors to review their strategy on dealing with such incidents by taking people along and making it a movement of "patients' safety" rather than "doctors' safety".
"Resident doctors should make patients a part of their movement. The idea is simple -- it is only when the doctors would feel safe and secure, that they would be able to provide better treatment," he said.
Dr Vijay Gurjar, an assistant professor in the department of Geriatric Medicine at AIIMS, stressed on the need for proper working conditions for resident doctors and also on developing better relationship with patients.
"They are main working force of any hospital and have to bear all the burnt from the teachers as well as patients. We as faculty members have to take care of our residents as our kids.
"We must ensure that they are getting enough time to relax and rejuvenate. Let's pledge on this Doctors' Day that we will not torture our juniors and will build a healthy relationship with them that in turn will help them develop better relationship with patients as well," he said.
Ex-AIIMA RDA President, Dr Harjit Bhatti spoke at length on issues of the residents including the extended duty hours without break and extreme patient load, lack of duty rooms and recreational activities.
"In various surveys, it was found that doctors are under continuous anxiety and feel threatened at workplace. The major cause is workplace violence and abuse. Patient attendants demands immediate relief of their patient's suffering and sometimes hit the doctor in an outrage. These emotional outbursts severely affect the mental status of Resident Doctors and they accept that their ability to perform skills also reduced under threat," he said.
The doctors also sought strict implementation of central residency scheme in all hospitals, enactment of a Central protection law to make violence against doctors a non-bailable offence and establishment of a central medical tribunal to specially take up medical cases on priority.
Meanwhile, the Congress on Monday also appealed to the Central government to double the healthcare expenditure in the upcoming budget, claiming that India's healthcare deficit is "glaring".
Citing a media report, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said there is a shortfall of 82 per cent in specialists like surgeons, physicians etc, 40 per cent of lab technicians, and 12-16 per cent of nurses at primary health care level.
The Union Budget 2019 for the financial year 2019-20 is scheduled to be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on July 5.