Amid the rise of violence against medical practitioners in India, around 1,500 doctors at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), one of the top government hospitals, will be given daily martial arts training in the hospital’s gym from 15 May onwards.

“We are genuinely concerned about our safety,” said Vijay Gurjar, president of the resident doctors’ association, who requested the martial arts training from the university hospital.

“The government is not taking necessary steps”

According to Gurjar, despite the growing violence against doctors, the government is not taking necessary steps to decrease it.

“Prevention is better than the cure, and if the government is not providing adequate security, then you have to take measures to save your life or vital organs,” he added.

In March, a spate of attacks against medical staff in India resulted in a strike for five days in Maharashtra as well as protests from the medical staff demanding better security measures and restriction on the number of visitors in public hospitals.

“We had supported our counterparts in Mumbai by wearing helmets to work in March. This is because we are genuinely concerned about our safety,” said Gurjar.

“Keeping the same in mind, we had requested the AIIMS administration to organise self-defence classes for us. They granted us permission to conduct taekwondo classes in AIIMS gymkhana club.”

Lack of doctor-patient trust a major factor

According to a study carried out in 2016, 40% of resident doctors in a Delhi hospital had been exposed to violence at work in a span of 12 months. Additionally, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) reported that 75% of doctors would face physical or verbal violence in their career. Attacks against nurses and other hospital staff also regularly occur but are often covered up.

Massive overcrowding in the public healthcare system is said to be one of the contributing factors to the lack of communication among physicians, patients and their families. Besides, corruption and overcharging also affect the Indian healthcare system, leading to the breakdown in doctor-patient trust.

“Doctors are forced to spend less time listening to the patients or their caregivers. The concept of shared decision-making is almost absent. The average conversation between a doctor and a patient might last just a few seconds,” said Dr Vijay Nath Mishra, a neurology professor at Sir Sunderlal Hospital in Varanasi.

IMA will launch registry to report violence

In response to the issue, the IMA will launch a violence registry where doctors can report cases of violence along with evidence such as videos, photos, CCTV footage and newspaper clippings.

“This will help us in understanding why violence is happening, predict when the violence might happen and look at measures to prevent such incidences,” said Dr KK Agarwal, president of the IMA.

In the meantime, the IMA is running education programmes to encourage doctors to spend more time and communicate better with their patients.

Stricter guidelines against violence in Malaysia

In Malaysia, the increasing physical and verbal abuse against Ministry of Health (MOH) employees has similarly threatened the safety of medical professionals. Director-general of the MOH, Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah, who recently launched guidelines to prevent and handle violence against MOH staff, expressed his concern.

He said that apart from physical injuries, the staff may potentially suffer mental and emotional stress which would affect their productivity in delivering the best service to the people.

According to Noor Hisham, most cases were underreported, and that MOH employees could refer to the new guidelines in taking necessary action in the event of abuse such as one incident which went viral on social media.

“The ministry will continue to work closely with the police and the Communications and Multimedia Ministry to investigate allegations and threats of physical violence against our staff on social media. We will also collect evidence to counter the allegations,” he said. MIMS

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