Battling the Storm: An Indian Doctor’s Journey Against Violence in Healthcare

Dr Kunal Arora (M.B.B.S)

Junior Resident, Critical Care ICU, Fortis Hospital, Mohali, India.

Violence against doctors is a worldwide phenomenon. World Health Organisation says that 8% to 38% of health workers suffer physical violence at some point in their careers. A recent survey by the Indian Medical Association showed that 82.7% of doctors feel stressed out in their profession, 62.8% fear violence, and 46.3% say violence is the main cause of their stress.

India is slowly making progress in enacting laws to protect healthcare workers from violence, but there is still much work to be done. Many states and law enforcement agencies have yet to fully recognize the severity of the issue, leading to numerous instances of doctors facing mistreatment. However, recent law amendments in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) have begun to address violence against doctors, signalling a step in the right direction.

I have experienced the brutality of patients’ families first-hand during my time in the medical field. I vividly remember an incident where, during my rural PSM assignment in Pakyong, a quaint village nestled in Sikkim, while on night duty, I received an urgent call from the nursing staff regarding a critical emergency that had arrived at the hospital. Rushing to the scene, I discovered that the patient had been in cardiac arrest for the past hour. Despite the grim prognosis, with the eyes of anxious relatives fixed upon me, I commenced CPR in a desperate bid to save a life. However, amidst the chaos and heightened emotions, the situation quickly escalated. The family, overwhelmed by fear and despair, directed their frustration towards us, holding us responsible for their loved one’s condition. I found myself at the receiving end of verbal abuse and physical threats. It was a terrifying experience that left me shaken and questioning the adequacy of the safeguards in place to protect healthcare workers.

Colleagues and friends within the medical community have also shared similar stories of brutality at the hands of patients’ families. However, despite the trauma inflicted, we have all managed to persevere through solidarity and support from one another.

In addressing this alarming trend of violence against healthcare workers, several measures must be considered. Adequate explanation and counselling can help alleviate tensions and diffuse potentially volatile situations before they escalate. Additionally, having concrete evidence, such as video surveillance footage, can provide valuable documentation in cases of misconduct, aiding in the pursuit of justice and accountability.

Implementing stronger security measures within healthcare facilities is also essential to ensuring the safety of medical professionals. This may include increasing the presence of security personnel, installing panic buttons, and enhancing access control systems. By bolstering security, healthcare workers can feel more protected and confident in carrying out their duties.

Furthermore, proactive measures must be taken to temper situations before they spiral out of control. This involves training healthcare staff in conflict resolution techniques and de-escalation strategies. By equipping medical professionals with the necessary skills to navigate challenging scenarios, we can minimize the risk of violence and promote a culture of respect and understanding within healthcare settings.

Ultimately, addressing the issue of violence against healthcare workers requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses legal, administrative, and cultural reforms. While progress may be slow, it is imperative that we continue to advocate for the protection of those who dedicate their lives to healing others. Only through collective action and unwavering commitment can we create a safer and more supportive environment for healthcare workers across India.

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