Kerala amends Hospital Protection Act; medicos laud ordinance with caution, await implementation

While they all unanimously welcome the amendment to the ordinance, doctors are also waiting to see how it would be implemented 
Here's the report | (Pic: EdexLive)
Here's the report | (Pic: EdexLive)

The Kerala government approved an ordinance of the Hospital Protection Act which aims at protecting doctors, healthcare workers, and medical students today, May 17. The weekly cabinet meeting of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Government, led by CM Pinarayi Vijayan held in Thiruvananthapuram cleared the law and brought the Ordinance which will be sent to Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, as per a report by IANS.

The Hospital Protection Act, which ensures the safety of all medical professionals against physical and verbal attacks, has been a long-standing demand among the medical community in the state. Following the attack and murder of medical intern Dr Vandana Das, the demand for this act has caught momentum. 

Welcome amendment 
Speaking to EdexLive, Indian Medical Association (IMA)  Kerala State President Dr Sulphi Noohu says, "We need to know more details of the Ordinance and its execution." Although the Ordinance seems good so far, we are looking forward to its execution. Further, he affirmed that they have been fighting for this ordinance for the past 6 months. 

Arjun S, a medical intern at the Government Medical College, Kottayam said, "I am very happy that a move has been made. Probably, the government was forced to do so considering the backlash to the Dr Vandana Das incident." 

"We have been urging for this ordinance since last year when a neurosurgeon was kicked in her belly by a bystander. Although there has been a delay, we are happy that the Ordinance is in its place now," he added.  

Dr Philip T Paul, a medical intern at the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Medical College, Kolenchery, Kochi also has doubts about how effectively the ordinance will be implemented but welcomes it nevertheless. “However, it would have been better if the Government introduced a new Act with more stringent provisions, rather than just an Ordinance,” he continues. 

Moreover, he says that with the Hospital Protection Act already existing, there have been several incidents of violence against doctors, and hopes that this Ordinance makes a difference.

“Why was the Ordinance passed this late,” asks Dr Abel Jaison, MD, Believers Church Medical Hospital in Thiruvalla. He says that if the provisions in the Hospital Protection Act were followed strictly, there would not have been a problem. 

Dr Abel also believes that the Ordinance alone would not suffice. “While the Ordinance is certainly welcome, violence can only be stopped if there is a change in society,” he says. He explains that the general public must treat doctors like the experts and professionals that they are, instead of seeing them as greedy and blaming them if anything happens to the patient. “In my entire career, I was attacked twice, and my contemporaries were attacked as well. Most of them left India to pursue medicine elsewhere, where they could practice more safely, and some left the medical profession altogether,” he narrates. 

“With this Ordinance, I am glad that at least physical violence against doctors can be curbed,” he concludes, stating that there should be strict and timely action against perpetrators.

Earlier acts of violence
In December 2022, a female Neurosurgeon at the Thiruvananthapuram medical college hospital was allegedly kicked by a bystander in the lower abdomen over the death of a patient. Following this brutal assault, Health Minister Veen George directed that only one bystander would be allowed to stay with patients in ICUs and wards at government medical college hospitals in the state, as stated in reports. 

"Earlier the culprit's punishment was from 0 to 3 years which means he/she can be left without being punished. But now with the ordinance, no culprit will be left without being punished," he said. 

Requesting the government to act
Further, Dr Sulphi shared that they have requested the government to see that the culprit is punished within a year and be given strong punishment.

Concerning the tragedy of Dr Vandana, the President of the association said that they have asked the government to grant compensation to her family.

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