Gauhati HC Directs Assam Govt To Take Action Against Harassment of Healthcare Workers
The Gauhati High Court on Monday directed the Assam government to submit a report on the measures it has undertaken to prevent attacks against medical staff in hospitals, in light of recent reports of harassment of frontline medical workers during Covid19.
The bench, constituting the state’s Chief Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and Justice Manash Ranjan Pathak, was responding to public interest litigation (PIL) that took note of an incident in Assam’s Hojai district earlier this month — in which a doctor along with other staff was assaulted by family members of a deceased Covid19 patient. The medical personnel from the hospital were “heavily traumatized,” the petition noted.
Moreover, calling such incidents a “gross human rights violation and attack on fundamental right [sic],” the petition requested directions to the state government to take steps to ensure that such violence does not take place again.
The court noted that urgent measures need to be taken to ensure staff isn’t “manhandled or attacked” and these incidents don’t repeat in the future. They directed the government to ensure that weapons and firearms are not allowed inside hospitals to protect the staff members.
The incident in Assam triggered outrage in the medical community over inadequate security offered to the healthcare staff. Doctors in Assam boycotted their duties in protest, and the Assam Medical Service Association strongly condemned the incident, demanding strict action against the perpetrators and also security measures for the personnel’s safety. Earlier, the National Human Rights Commission also asked the government to file a report detailing the preventive and punitive action taken in the matter.
Related on The Swaddle:
Several instances across the country show a growing hostility against medical workers since the start of the pandemic. While the petition and judgment spoke of violence within hospitals, there have been other instances of doctors being attacked and assaulted off-duty. A month prior to the Assam attack, two women doctors were assaulted for “spreading Covid” while they stepped out to buy vegetables.
Frontline medical staff also bears the brunt of people’s anger and helplessness during the shortage of resources during the second Covid19 wave. In Delhi, nurses and doctors at an Apollo hospital were attacked in April after a patient awaiting an ICU bed died in the emergency room. A few days later, staff from a Bareilly hospital were attacked after a patient was refused due to a lack of oxygen supply.
“Violent behaviour is going to disrupt services and even demoralize healthcare staff who are extremely stretched and on the verge of burn-out,” said the Association of Healthcare Providers India, a non-profit, in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister.
The direction is among other recent court observations which take cognizance of these attacks during the pandemic. The Bombay High Court observed in May that states would “fail in our duty if we do not protect them [medical staff].”
In response to the spate of attacks all across the country, the Indian Medical Association has called for a nationwide protest on June 18th.