CHENNAI: A central legislation seeking to punish those who assault on-duty doctors and other healthcare professionals is almost ready and will be tabled in Parliament in the upcoming winter session, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.
“Attacks on doctors are something that cannot be ignored. A central law is required to put an end to this disturbing trend,” he said.
The minister added that the draft Bill will soon be released for feedback from the public before being taken to the Union Cabinet. “We have already consulted some stakeholders and now the ministry is working on giving final contours to the draft Bill,” Vardhan said.
According to the draft Bill, those “grievously hurting” doctors and other healthcare professionals at clinical establishments may face imprisonment of 3-10 years and a fine between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 10 lakh.
Healthcare professionals comprise doctors, para-medical staff, medical students, diagnostic service providers and ambulance drivers.
The draft Bill proposes those commissioning violence or damaging property of a healthcare facility can be imprisoned for six months to five years and slapped a penalty ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh.
The Centre had set up a 10-member inter-ministerial committee after a junior doctor was assaulted in West Bengal in June leading to protests by doctors. Officials from health, home and law ministries will assess the “pros and cons” of the central law.
Sixteen states already have laws dealing with violence against healthcare professionals. However, these have hardly led to convictions.
There is no central data on assault on doctors. A report by the Indian Medical Association shows up to 75% of doctors have faced violence at work. Violence can be in the form of telephonic threats, intimidation, verbal abuse, physical but non-injurious assault, physical assault causing simple or grievous injury, murder, vandalism, and arson.
Medical professionals facing violence have been known to develop psychological issues such as depression, insomnia, post-traumatic stress, fear and anxiety, leading to absenteeism, according to a report by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in April.