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Times of India
03 December 2011
Kochi India

It is good news for the medical fraternity in the state. The Kerala government has drafted a Bill, Kerala Healthcare Service Persons and Healthcare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2011, to protect doctors and healthcare institutions.

The bill has provisions to prohibit violence against doctors and hospitals, a problem which doctors' associations have been raising for the past decades.

Though the ordinance came into effect more than a year ago, its tabling in the Assembly was delayed, much to the concern of doctors and hospital management. What makes the Bill different is that it gives protection to all medical practitioners, registered nurses, medical students, nursing students and paramedical workers associated with hospitals and other health institutions. And its rules make such attacks non-bailable offences.

The Act, which has already been implemented in 16 states, including Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, has rules to prosecute anyone who causes damage and loss to hospitals and attacks doctors and other staff.

"The common law is not effective when it comes to attacks against doctors because it books culprits for trespassing and the case does not stand as most of them would be bystanders or relatives. The new Bill will address all these problems along with recommendations to address patients' grievances," says Dr A V Jayakrishnan, secretary of the Professional Protection Scheme (PPS) of the Indian Medical Association.

There have been reports of frequent attacks against hospitals over the years.

This year, till September, only 10 incidents were reported. According to the statistics available with the IMA, a total of 12 such incidents were reported from across the state last year while the number was 20 in 2009. There were 22 such attacks in 2007, which came down to 19 in 2008.

"The new Bill maintains that people who attack hospitals should pay double the cost of damage they cause. This Act was implemented for the first time in Andhra Pradesh and it has been found very effective even in Naxal-hit areas," says Dr K E Paulose, former national vice–president of IMA.

All the offences under this Act are cognizable and non–bailable, which the medical practitioners feel would go a long way in curbing the repeated attacks against them, giving them a friendly environment and protection at workplace.

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