Doctors’ Anger Has Long Been Brewing in Bengal, the NRS Fiasco Just Brought it to Boil While the latest incident at NRS Hospital in Kolkata compelled more than 200 doctors and medical professionals in Bengal to resign, it appears that the medical fraternity in the state has been dissatisfied for some time with the state government’s insipid response in tackling the problem of violence against medicos.
Doctors in Kolkata protested for five days since two medical professionals were assaulted at Nil Ratan Sarkar Medical College and Hospital allegedly after a 75-year-old succumbed to his treatment on the night of June 10. The deceased’s kin blamed the medicos for negligence after which a mob, consisting of more than 200 people, attacked the junior doctors at NRS.
Dr Paribaha Mukherjee was grievously injured in the assault and sustained a serious skull injury. His condition was said to be stable as his colleagues carried on with the crusade.
The incident led to intensive protests that first started in Bengal and then spread across the country. The inadequate and, to many medical professionals protesting or otherwise, unacceptable response of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee further angered the doctors who refused to call off their strikes despite an ultimatum.
A closer look at the condition of doctors in Bengal reveals this was not a crisis in isolation. In fact, several discrepancies in the safety of doctors have cropped up in recent years in the state, including instances of frequent assaults.
The issue gained national attention when Jadavpur Police Station’s officer-in-charge, Pulak Kumar Dutta, assaulted a medical professional at Calcutta Medical Research Institute (CMRI) in August last year.
On August 29, 2018, a postgraduate trainee doctor at the hospital lodged a complaint of physical assault against a police officer who had taken admission in the plastic surgery department for a wrist operation. According to the complaint, the cop assaulted the doctor who was attending to his case.
At the time, the Bengal unit of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had written to Banerjee seeking her intervention and action against the accused police officer. Unit head Shantanu Sen had told PTI that despite several campaigns, state authorities had been unable to guarantee the safety of medical personnel. The state Association of Health Service Doctors had also organized protests and strikes and doctors had taken to the streets in the first week of September to protest against the attack and a lack of action.
Before the attack, the Kolkata Police in July 2018 had taken cognizance of the increasing number of cases of assault against doctors, initiating a social media and poster campaign to help improve doctor-patient relationships. The posters, promoted by the state police, said that disruptions were part of any job and an entire community should not be penalized for the mistakes of a few.
“Doctors are saviors, standing by us in sickness and health. Assaulting them is a punishable offence and can earn up to ten years in prison,” one of the posters had said.