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Misplaced anger or intentional barbarism – Why is violence against healthcare workers on the rise?

Leo Tolstoy, the renowned Russian author, in one of his works states that ‘all men have a savage side inside of them’. He seems to have hit the nail right on its head. The recent cases of hospital and healthcare workers being assaulted by relatives of admitted patients is a testament to the statement. It seems the pandemic has turned us all into thoughtless beasts, prone to violence and bloodshed rather than one to listen to the voice of reason.

Newspapers are rife with reports of doctors and hospital staff facing the ire of individuals and mobs. How long must we stand as mute spectators? Why are these things allowed to happen? Are doctors and medical staff not human as well? Are they not in the same boat with us? In fact, are they not the ones keeping the boat stable and afloat? Then, why, we must ask ourselves, why is violence against healthcare workers on the rise?

Rather than appreciating the fact that these brave souls have answered the call, they are held responsible by grieving family members for the demise of their loved ones. Our doctors as well as the working staff have had to sacrifice the comforts and relative safety of their homes to attend to patients, day in and day out. Sleep is out of the question. They faithfully stood guard when the pandemic threatened to cripple the nation. And yet, they are denied the respect and gratitude they rightfully deserve.

The recent case of a doctor being brutally assaulted by family members of a COVID victim in Assam made the rounds. A video clip of the incident has led authorities to arrest the culprits. But how many healthcare workers have to suffer the misdirected wrath of the grieving public before stringent rules are put in place? Aakansha Behal, a doctor on duty at a COVID-19 ward, made a plea to the public to put themselves in a doctor’s shoes first. She expressed the mental and physical stress doctors have to go through after witnessing numerous deaths, in spite of them trying their best. Such traumatic experiences take a toll on doctors too. “We are human too,” she said. “Violence just makes the hospital an unsafe environment and this stress will eventually affect our decisions.”

The need of the hour is stricter laws and an effective mechanism to oversee its implementation. Despite the Epidemic Diseases Amendment Bill,2020, being passed, attacks on healthcare workers has not lessened. This is a colossal failure on our part. We need to protect our healthcare workers who are doing an outstanding job on the frontlines every day, risking their lives to ensure that we remain safe.

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