Almost six months after Delhi government promised doctors better security measures in hospitals, resident doctors say the ground reality has changed little.
After a reported spate of attack on doctors in June by patients’ families, government doctors had gone on strike demanding deployment of security guards. They were protesting over lack of security measures, long work hours, lack of hostels and shortage of drugs at hospitals. OPD services at government hospitals came to a halt during the two-day strike.
In June, the Delhi government invoked Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against the resident doctors on strike for six months. Under ESMA, resident doctors can be arrested or terminated for staying away from work.
According to doctors, the need for security stemmed from the poor availability of medicines at hospitals. Patients often end up blaming doctors if any medicine or basic tests are unavailable at the hospitals, according to resident doctors.
“It is disappointing that over five months have passed since we were given time-bound assurance for our demands. The implementation of the promises assured is very slow,” says Dr Pankaj Solanki, president of Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA).
“ The number of home guards is much lower than what was promised by the government. The home guards can be rarely spotted these days. We understand that strike is not a solution. But we cannot accept it if the government goes back on its promises,” he says.
In the first phase, the government had deputed 500 home guards across 18 hospitals. After the doctors called off the strike, seven cases of assault on resident doctors were reported from five state-run hospitals and one Centre-run hospital.
In the next phase, 1,000 more home guards were to be deployed.
Lok Nayak Hospital was supposed to get 105 home guards, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital was to get 45, Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital 15 and Acharya Shri Bhikshu Hospital 12, among other hospitals. The home guards were to be posted in critical departments like emergency, surgery and gynaecology where there are more chances of patients’ attendants turning hostile towards doctors.
“The home guards were not much of a solution at the hospital. The guards also came to services erratically,” says Dr Savita Babbar, medical superintendent at DDU Hospital.
At LBS Hospital, only a few home guards are currently deployed. “Only five or six home guards are deployed at the hospital against the 15 promised. They have not made any difference to the security services and are not trained enough to tackle situations. Also, the home guards come to work erratically,” says a senior administrative official at the hospital.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain says the issue of home guards is being independently looked into by the hospital authorities. “The government had deployed home guards. The medical superintendents at hospitals are now sorting out the issue at their level,” says Jain.
Doctors point out the lack of accountability of home guards to hospital authorities is one of the reasons why their deployment did not improve the security system.
“There are fewer home guards who show up at the hospital than what was promised initially. There is no mechanism for the hospital authorities to regulate them. They mostly do not report at any definite time. When the guards do not report to work, they are marked absent. But the hospital administration cannot take action against the home guards as they are not accountable to the hospital authorities,” says Dr Sushil Vijay, president, resident doctors’ association, Maharishi Valmiki Hospital.
The other demands of doctors like safe drinking water, better work hours, the need for registering institutional FIRs, more hostel rooms are also pending, say doctors.
“Our demands were basic – drugs for patients, safe drinking water and security for the resident doctors. Even five months on, there is a shortage of basic drugs like multivitamins at the hospital,” says Dr Rajiv Ranjan, RDA president, Acharya Shree Bhikshu Hospital.