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Consider enacting law to protect medical professionals from violence: Health minister to states

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New Delhi, Jun 15 :  Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan Saturday asked states to consider enacting specific legislation for protecting doctors and medical professionals from any form of violence in the wake of the recent assault on doctors in West Bengal.

Along with a letter to all chief ministers, he also attached a copy of the Draft Act provided by IMA --the Protection of Medical Service Persons and Medical Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss of Property) Act, 2017.

He drew the attention of all states and UTs for strict action against any person who assaults doctors.

The move comes after the Indian Medical Association (IMA) launched a four-day nationwide protest from Friday and wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah demanding enactment of a central law to check violence against healthcare workers in hospitals. The apex doctors body has called for a nationwide strike on June 17 with withdrawal of non-essential health services.

Expressing deep concern over the recent act of violence against doctors, Vardhan stated that incidents of assault on doctors are reported from different parts of the country and this leads to sudden strike by doctors, gravely affecting the healthcare services.

"Resident doctors in many parts of the country are agitating and not providing healthcare services. Agitations by doctors in West Bengal seem to be getting aggravated and taking shape of strike by both government and private sector doctors, all over the country," he said in his letter.

Representatives from the IMA and Delhi Medical Association (DMA) also called on Vardhan Saturday.

Stressing further on the need for avoiding such incidents in future, Vardhan said that law enforcement should prevail so that doctors and clinical establishments discharge their duties and professional pursuit without fear of any violence.

"Strict action against any person who assaults them, must be ensured by the law enforcement agencies," he emphasised.

Vardhan cited a letter dated July 7, 2017 sent by the Union Health Ministry to all chief secretaries of states which contains the decision taken by an Inter-Ministerial Committee constituted by the ministry to review the issues raised by IMA.

The committee, in its report, had recommended that the Health Ministry shall suggest to all state governments which do not have specific legislation to protect doctors and health professionals to consider one to strictly enforce the provisions of special legislation wherever they exist or enforce the IPC/CrPC provisions with vigour.

"The IMA has raised this concern many a times. Since 'police' and 'public order' are state subjects, government of India, on many occasions has drawn attention of state governments  for an urgent need for a robust criminal justice system with emphasis on prevention and control of crime," Vardhan said.

The draft of The Protection of Medical Service Persons and Medical Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss of Property) Act, 2017, circulated to the states, includes clauses on penalty and recovery in case of loss/damage to property.

Vardhan said doctors form an important pillar of society and often work under stressful and difficult conditions.

"Our doctors rank among the best in the world and work for long hours under stressful conditions, grappling with a huge load of patients. It is the duty of State to ensure safety and security of doctors who assure that the healthcare needs of the society are met," he highlighted.

On Friday, while reviewing the situation, Vardhan had met a delegation of Resident Doctors Association of AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, United Resident abd Doctors Association of India (URDA) and Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA), who gave a representation to him on the violence against doctors in West Bengal.

He had assured them his support and cooperation.

He also wrote to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Friday in this matter.

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