The Delhi government has provided 12-15 bouncers or “professional body guards” to the Chacha Nehru Bal Chikitsalaya (CNBC) to ensure the safety of the hospital staff after a doctor was assaulted earlier this week.

CNBC is not the only hospital where the Delhi government has been forced to provide bouncers. Since the past one-and-a-half month, the emergency wards in at least six major hospitals are being guarded by professional body guards provided by the state government to prevent attacks on doctors by livid family members of patients.

Over the past few months, several incidents of doctors being assaulted by patients have been recorded across major hospitals in the city. The most recent incident took place at the CNBC hospital where a doctor was badly beaten up by the family of a “preterm” baby who died after being diagnosed with respiratory distress syndrome. News about the incident spread like wildfire after the video of the family members beating the doctor went viral. Both the sides registered police complaints. As a consequence, the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) went on a three-day strike that affected the functioning of Delhi’s only child speciality hospital. FORDA had demanded the resignation of CNBC’s director for not supporting the “victimized” doctor.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain refused to talk to this reporter citing a “busy schedule”. However, sources in the Delhi health department said that a mandatory “pass system” in government hospitals may be introduced soon and it will allow only one family member (attendant) per patient during the course of the treatment. Doctors also suggested that there shouldn’t be multiple entry and exit points in hospitals and free movement of attendants across a hospital should be restricted.

Recurrence of assaults

However, this wasn’t the first time that doctors had gone on a strike and demanded the hospital administration to take responsibility for incidents where a doctor was not at fault and yet was at the receiving end of the ire of the patients’ relatives.

In March this year, resident doctors at the Deen Dayal Upadhyay (DDU) Hospital in west Delhi had gone on a strike after some doctors were allegedly roughed up during a scuffle with a patient’s family members in the emergency ward.

According to reports, the patient had sustained injuries on his leg in an accident and had to wait for about 10-15 minutes for the doctors to arrive. When the doctors arrived, one of them accidentally brushed against the patient’s leg that led to a heated argument and a clash broke out. Three doctors sustained minor injuries on the nose, stomach, and face. Both sides registered police complaints.

Earlier in January, another major clash between patients and doctors took place at the Lok Nayak Hospital (LNJP). Nearly 400 resident doctors from various departments participated in the strike to demand the arrest of the deceased patients’ attendants who had allegedly manhandled the doctor. The scuffle took place after a pregnant woman collapsed within 10 minutes of being brought to the LNJP hospital. Following this, “around 50 people had gathered who verbally abused the doctors forcing the doctors to lock themselves inside to be safe,” reports said. The crowd was dispersed only after police arrived.

Are Patients to be blamed?

Prabhawati Yadav, maternal grandfather of the deceased preterm child, and the complainant in the CNBC incident, who filed a police report against the doctor for “negligence in treatment”, said, “What are we to do now? My daughter lost her first child. You can’t even imagine our sorrow. Doctors and hospitals are supposed to save people’s lives. How can they be so irresponsible? If they don’t have enough facilities, why not shut their shops? Look at any government hospital. Even for basic tests, patients have to wait for months. Obviously, they will get frustrated. This is the failure of the hospital and they will be held accountable for it.”

Are doctors to be blamed?

Dr Pankaj Solanki, President, FORDA, said, “The problem is that the doctors are not safe in hospitals. This is our workplace and we have no security here. It is understandable that attendants of patients are going through emotional distress, but that is no reason to beat up a doctor black and blue. If the ventilator was not available, it was the hospital’s responsibility. A doctor has nothing to do with it. In fact, in the CNBC incident, due to the unavailability of the ventilator, the doctors had used an ambu bag — a hand-held ventilator like device — which needs to be pumped constantly. They tried what they could, with whatever they had.”

Dr Solanki further pointed out to the various shortcomings that trigger such incidents. “We don’t have enough doctors. There are a total 47,000 seats for MBBS and only 15,000 seats for post-graduation. We don’t have the required number of specialists. To make matters worse, annually there are around 86,000 doctors who go abroad in search of better job opportunities. A significant number of these are those specialists who we need to keep back in the country,” he said.

The other problem is poor hospital facilities. “For starters, take the number of ventilators available in all major government hospitals in Delhi. Ideally, there should be at least one ventilator per 10 beds. In Ambedkar hospital, there are only six ventilators available for 580 beds; in LNJP hospital, there are 18 ventilators against 1,500 beds; in CNBC, there are 15 ventilators for 225 beds and in DDU hospital, there are 10 ventilators for 600 beds.”

“Apart from the lack of facilities for patients, the working conditions in a government hospital aren’t welcoming either. We don’t even get enough drinking water or hygienic washroom facilities. Since there is a shortage of staff, the doctors at times are forced to work for 12-17 hours at a stretch, which obviously takes a toll on their quality of work. In addition, we have to face the attendants’ ire for no apparent mistake of ours,” said Dr Solanki.


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