As the country battles Covid-19, another battle that we have to fight is the increased rate of violence against healthcare workers. Exhausted as they barely see their family while working double shifts, living with the fear of catching the virus whose gruesome reality lays before their eyes, and seeing the grief people experience when they lose their loved ones up close, the healthcare workers of India have been fighting the pandemic front line.
Yet, there a rise in violence against healthcare workers has been noted since the start of the pandemic. People go to hospitals with hope, and it can be devastating to have that hope crushed but it is not on the ones working there to save everyone, there is only so much the medical science can fight.
Trigger Warning: The following paragraph contains descriptions of physical and sexual assault.
A heart-breaking video of a doctor being beaten up recently surfaced from the state of Assam. The video started a dialogue on social media about the rising anxiety faced by healthcare workers regarding their safety. Several doctors and nurses spoke up about their experiences and fears. In the past year, unfortunately several such videos have gone viral where doctors are either verbally abused or hit brutally. And these are just the ones that are recorded; there are hundreds of thousands of such cases that aren’t recorded or reported. One such disturbing video showed two doctors being attacked with stones by a mob back in April 2020. Woman doctors and nurses in India are sadly not alien to being sexually harassed by patients. A doctor told the BBC in 2020 that they witnessed patients “walking naked in the hospital ward and harassing women doctors and nurses.”
After the video from Assam went viral earlier this week, outrage was sparked across the country. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah requesting the approval of “a comprehensive, uniform, and effective law against the healthcare violence.” The IMA expressed their concern while stating, “while the entire medical fraternity stands with you and is working tirelessly during the pandemic, it is also facing a serious threat from healthcare violence. There are many incidences of healthcare violence taking place across the country.”
They have been wearing PPE kits for hours as we complain about having to wear masks while going to buy groceries. They have been seeing death closer than anyone else. Grief is painful and dealt with differently by everyone but it a fit of aggression and an attack to those who tried their level best to save their patients is never the answer. It is incredibly disturbing that the healthcare workers who are working day and night to protect our country from the pandemic are not safe in their workplaces. We have been giving them tributes, but are we fighting for their safety? The best we can do to support the frontline fighters of India is stand with them and raise awareness by educating those around us about the issues faced by them.