Srinagar: The physical assault on a female doctor at Lal Ded (LD) Hospital two days ago has brought into the open the sort of threats and stress that doctors at the hospital routinely face.
According to the doctors, the drop-out rate of junior doctors has increased manifold in Kashmir’s lone maternity specialty – LD Hospital – in the past five years, during which the patient rush has considerably increased and so has violence or threat of violence against doctors.
“Violent incidents have become a routine in Lal Ded Hospital over the years. This year, three such incidents took place when attendants beat up doctors. It’s a worrying trend and has led to brain drain of dedicated and bright doctors,” said Dr Rizwana Habib, a senior gynaecologist at LD Hospital.
She said a violent incident in which a doctor comes under attack terrifies every medical professional, but nothing is being done to end it.
“Doctors have become a soft target for people. Only they come under attack, even though people face problems with other professionals as well,” Dr Habib said.
She said that doctors work tirelessly to serve people and any violence against them is deeply discouraging. “It has led to high drop-out rate of junior doctors, especially postgraduate students who left their course midway and went to other colleges in Kashmir and outside,” she said.
The government medical colleges and hospitals are considered as “boiling pots” of stress as a huge number of patients arrive there but find the places under-staffed and ill-equipped. A large percentage of medical students here work in fear and often complain of psychological distress.
“Fear affects the decision-making of resident doctors. Standard protocols cannot be followed under a situation of fear. It affects patient care as doctors are not able to take rational decisions,” said Dr Arshad Hussain, a well-known psychiatrist.
A 26-year-old female PG student in LD Hospital told Kashmir Reader that treating patients during rush hours makes her feel insecure.
“We cannot concentrate on our work for months together whenever any violent incident takes place. I also thought of discontinuing my course, but my teachers motivated me to come back,” she said, requesting anonymity.
Senior gynaecologist Dr Masuma Rizvi said PG students prefer to go to SKIMS Soura and SKIMS Bemina for their studies and tenure posts. “PG students and registrars don’t want to work under pressure, especially when there is a threat to their lives. They don’t prefer hospitals of GMC Srinagar, especially Lal Ded Hospital,” she said.
Nearly six students at LD Hospital have left the PG course and registrar’s post midway since 2017 because they faced stress and life threat, doctors at the hospital said.
“We counselled students and their parents to bring them back but we had no reason to force the issue because they had many better options available,” a doctor said.
Dr Samiya Mufti, faculty member at LD Hospital, termed the recent attack on a female doctor as “horrible”.
“The postgraduate doctor is just 24 years old. She was ruthlessly beaten for no fault of hers. She was checking up patients in the labour room in her morning shift when eight to ten attendants attacked her with sticks and brooms. They chased her away from the ward and beat her ruthlessly. How can we expect doctors to give their 100 percent?” she said.
“The complaints of the attendants might be genuine but such incidents are shameful because attacking an on-duty doctor, that too when she is attending to critical patients, is criminal and must be dealt with strictly,” Dr Mufti said.
She said the doctor who was beaten up by attendants has now stopped attending her duties.
“She is in shock and doesn’t answer our calls. We talked to her parents but they are apprehensive about her safety. They are blaming her guides and teachers and we have no answer for them,” Dr Mufti said.
Medical Superintendent of LD Hospital, Dr Shabir Seddiqui, said he had sent a proposal to the government for enhancing security of the hospital so that doctors feel secure.
“Currently we have outsourced the security of the hospital, but we want a dedicated team of security officials as we have in SKIMS Soura. It will bring accountability in the system and control the rush of attendants,” he said.
Meanwhile, police have registered an FIR under Section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) at Police Station Raj Bagh against “unknown attendants” after the junior doctor submitted an application before them.