ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Suppressing the Symptoms or Treating the Malady?

Maharashtra, which recently witnessed several attacks on front line doctors, has comparatively very low levels of per capita public health spending, shortfalls in health facilities, and major shortages of specialist public doctors. Dialogue mechanisms should be developed based on community monitoring, while existing legal provisions for grievance redressal need implementation. Doctor–patient communication must improve, and the serious ailments afflicting public health services in Maharashtra must be addressed to move beyond superficial solutions.

The author gratefully acknowledges inputs from Sanjay Nagral, Ravi Duggal and members of the SATHI team while writing this article.

Maharashtra has witnessed a spate of attacks by attendants of patients on front line doctors in public hospitals across the state in March 2017. This precipitated a major strike by over 4,000 resident doctors, which was supported by the 40,000-strong Indian Medical Association (IMA) in the state. The Bombay High Court intervened based on a public interest litigation that had been filed against the strike, and ordered the resident doctors to resume work. With the government having given an assurance that 1,100 additional security guards will be appointed in public hospitals across the state, the strike was withdrawn after nearly five days of turmoil.

What was notable in this process was that all major parties involved—the doctors’ associations, the government, and the court—treated these attacks purely as a security issue. The chief justice of the high court termed the attacks as “madness,” perhaps implying that there could be no understandable rationale for people to be moved to such violent action. It appeared as if the growing popular dissatisfaction with the availability and quality of services being provided in major public hospitals across Maharashtra had nothing to do with the violence that had erupted in certain public hospitals of the state. This seemed like a situation where a cauldron of water had been allowed to simmer on a flame, and yet when the pot boiled over, this was sought to be controlled by putting a lid on the vessel, rather than by putting out the fire.

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Updated On : 13th Apr, 2017
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