Kochi: With an aim to ensure that no further attacks on doctors and healthcare personnel take place, the State Government of Kerala has informed the High Court that the Government is proposing to amend The Kerala Healthcare Service Persons and Healthcare Service Institutions, (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act 2012.
Further, the Senior Government Pleader- Sri. S. Kannan has informed the HC bench of Justices Devan Ramachandran and Kauser Edappagath that meetings are scheduled at the highest levels with all stakeholders on April 4, 2023 and April 11, 2023.
Expressing happiness with this development, the bench noted, “As we have been always saying and consistently reminding, it is only if citizens are told and impressed upon, that an attack on a doctor or a healthcare personnel – for whatever be the reason – is unacceptable, will its chances be reduced. We believe that one of the most important factors that can aid in this is the opinion of this Court, particularly the intent to treat every such incident as being non-negotiable.”
“We, therefore, declare that, until decisions are taken at the highest levels – legislatively and otherwise – every incident of attack on a doctor or healthcare personnel will be treated as being in conflict with our intent or orders; and that necessary action will be pursued in such regard also,” it added.
The bench was considering a plea filed by Kerala Private Hospitals Association. Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that last year, the bench had suggested the Government to consider deploying police presence in hospitals, especially in the most sensitive areas and later extend it to other hospitals as well.
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During the course of the hearing over the past few months, the HC bench had also referred to the reports of ‘routine’ attacks on Healthcare personnel and observed that even though Kerala Healthcare Service Act 2012 has provision for strict penalties for assault against healthcare workers, the legal provision was not sufficient to stop the assaults.
Apart from this, taking note of the increasing number of attacks upon doctors, the HC bench had earlier directed the police authorities to ensure that a First Information Report (FIR) gets registered on every incident of violence within one hour. Besides, in a landmark move, the HC bench also decided to directly take cognizance of the complaints regarding violence against doctors, nurses or other healthcare professionals.
During the hearing of the case on March 8, 2023, the Court had cognisance of the recent attack on a Senior Cardiologist in Calicut and directed the Commissioner of Police, Calicut city to file a detailed report under his own name, before the court. Apart from this, the bench had also directed Superintendent of Police, Ernakulam (Rural) to file a report regarding a similar instance of violence against doctors at Muvattupuzha.
On March 24, after taking note of the police reports regarding the instances of violence against doctors at Kozhikode and Muvattupuzha, the bench had asked the Kerala Government to suggest measures including legislation for preventing attacks on healthcare workers.
The matter was listed for further hearing on March 30 and during the hearing of the case, the Senior Government Pleader informed the bench that the State is proposing to amend The Kerala Healthcare Service Persons and Healthcare Service Institutions, (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act 2012, to ensure that no further attacks on doctors and healthcare personnel take place.
“We also note with appreciation his submission that meetings are scheduled at the highest levels with all the stakeholders, including the parties to this case, on 04.04.2023 and 11.04.2023,” the bench further noted in the order.
Expressing happiness over the Government proposal, the HC bench clarified that attack on a doctor or healthcare personnel is unacceptable and every such incident of attack will be treated as being in conflict with the intent of the court and necessary action will also be taken in this regard.
Further, the bench has directed the Secretary of the Health and Family Welfare Department, Thiruvananthapuram, to make the order known to the public through appropriate actions.
“We direct the Secretary of the Health and Family Welfare Department, Thiruvananthapuram, to make this order of us known to the public through appropriate means including publications, papers and such other media, because we are certainly of the opinion that if people understand the consequences of their actions, they would refrain from adventurism, which sometimes is also on account of lack of respect for the law,” observed the bench.
Meanwhile, during the hearing of the case, Dr. Rajiv Joshi of Medico-Legal Society of India informed the Court about the recent attacks on doctors on March 17, March 21 and March 23, 2023. The High Court bench said that it would take up these issues at the time of the next hearing.
The matter has been listed for further hearing on May 26, 2023.
To read the order, click on the link below:
Also Read: Any attack on doctors, medical personnel is unacceptable and non-negotiable: Kerala HC directs state to suggest measures to prevent violence