Nisarga Biswas, 24, a junior resident at Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College, Kolkata, recalls the June 10 night when the hospital was attacked. He stresses that doctors try their best to save lives despite limited healthcare infrastructure.
On June 10th, around midnight, a patient on the verge of death was brought to the hospital. My junior colleague, who was working in the medicine department tended to the patient. He gave him a lifesaving drug, tried his best, but unfortunately the patient passed away. The aggrieved family did not take the news well. An altercation broke out between the doctor and the kin of the deceased patient. In no time, 200 people entered the hospital premises and started vandalising and pelting the facility with stones. A stone hit my junior colleague, who got critically injured.
For the past few years, the frequency of such incidents has increased, not only in West Bengal, but all over India. It has become the usual drill. A patient falls sick, the doctor tries his best to treat him/her despite a pathetic infrastructure. The moment something goes wrong, the doctor is blamed for it and thrashed. This holds true for private facilities as well, where the infrastructure is still a tad better.
A death is a grave event. Not only for the family of the patient, but even for the doctor. I am also someone’s son/ brother/nephew/ friend, I do understand human relationships and losing a loved one can shatter you. And this ability to empathise, makes me, well… just more human and not God. I cannot place my finger on a patient’s forehead and heal him/her. We, doctors have studied medicine and there are certain protocols that we need to follow. But more often than not, because of poor infrastructure, we are unable to perform.
For instance, if a patient is having convulsions and I am working as a junior doctor, I would ask the nurse for a particular drug. But if the nurse tells me that the drug is not available, I am rendered helpless, without too many options. My job is not to ensure that the medicines are in stock. I need to have the proper equipment to perform my duty.
In the absence of a proper infrastructure, we were forced to approach the chief minister, who is also the health minister of West Bengal. We wanted the chief minister to condemn the act and make it clear that no one can hit a doctor, period. Taking law into our hands resorting to violence is not our democratic right and can, in no way, pass off as a form of protest.
For seven days, we went on a strike. The healthcare delivery system was in turmoil. We, doctors were not at all happy about it. But we also believe that we needed to take this radical step to convey a message that we have had enough.
A doctor-patient relationship is a beautiful one. It grows with time and builds on trust and empathy. Poor infrastructure, lack of a dedicated patient grievance and laws on medical ethics has made our job difficult. Lack of security in hospitals makes it worse for us.
After our talks with the government, which was televised widely, I am hopeful that we have at least been successful in conveying our message to the people at large. This, despite efforts of giving our movement a communal and political colour. We kept our spines straight and did not bow down to these efforts and kept the movement apolitical. However, I am still skeptic about the implementation.
People hardly bother about the protocols that are already in place. For instance, doctors, have time and again reiterated to the administrative authorities that only one person can accompany a patient. But look at our wards, they are swarming with people. At least five or six people accompany one patient, making it difficult for us to work. I wonder if they are even aware of the rule. This is a small issue, but can create a ruckus in case of any untoward incident.
Now that the strike has come to an end, we have resumed work and are available 24×7. Doctors are nothing without patients. Our patients are our teachers and we love our work. Through our work we have been able to cure so many people, bring a smile on the faces of patients, who had lost all hope. All this, in spite of a crashed infrastructure. Unfortunately, during the strike, I realised that several sections of the society refuse to acknowledge the good work we have already done.