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Up to 7 yrs in jail, Rs 5 lakh fine if you injure a health worker treating Covid-19 patients

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A health worker checks people's temperature on the Delhi-Noida border Wednesday | Photo: ANI
A health worker checks people’s temperature on the Delhi-Noida border Wednesday | Photo: ANI


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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government Wednesday promulgated an ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, giving it more teeth to protect doctors and health workers treating Covid-19 patients facing violence and harassment across the country.

The amendments approved by the Union cabinet will make any attack on health workers — be it doctors, paramedics, nurses or ASHA workers — a cognisable and non-bailable offence. The offence will carry a jail term of between 3 months and 5 years, and a fine ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh.

If a health worker suffers serious injury in the violence, the offence will invite a jail term of between 6 months and 7 years, and a fine between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 5 lakh.

If a doctor’s clinic or a health worker’s vehicle is damaged in the violence, the accused will have to cough up double the market value of the damaged property as compensation.

“We are amending the law in the light of the pandemic situation of Covid-19,” Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said.

“The government’s message is clear. We will not tolerate attacks on our health workers who are rendering yeoman service. They are being looked upon as carriers of the virus and are attacked by people, including their neighbours. Be it harassment or violence, for the government, it’s a zero tolerance area,” he said.

The changes to the law, Javadekar added, will protect the entire health fraternity and help it work without fear. The ordinance will come into force immediately after the President’s assent.

It will now be mandatory to complete the investigation into such cases within 30 days, and a judgment to be delivered in a year’s time.


Also read: Indore doctor returns for coronavirus screening day after mob attack, says I’m not afraid


Amit Shah & Harsh Vardhan meet doctors virtually 

The cabinet’s decision came soon after Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan’s video conference with doctors Wednesday morning to hear their grievances. The doctors were threatening to go on strike if the government did not step in to stop the attacks on healthcare workers.

Following the meeting, Shah had tweeted: “Safety and dignity of our doctors at their work place is non-negotiable. It is our collective responsibility to ensure conducive atmosphere for them at all times. I have assured doctors that Modi govt is committed to their cause and appealed to reconsider their proposed protest.”

 

Since the Covid-19 outbreak hit India, the Modi government has taken other steps to protect the interests of health workers too, such as providing an accidental insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh for the 22.12 lakh healthcare workers drafted for Covid-19-related duty.

Other measures 

Javadekar said the government has also decided to allow the beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat, the government’s ambitious health insurance program for India’s 50 crore poor people, to avail free treatment for any disease in non-Covid hospitals that are not empanelled under the scheme.

He also said the government has, in a very short time, ramped up health infrastructure in the country. “The first case was reported in India in January. Covid hospitals were zero then. Now, we have 700-plus Covid hospitals, almost two lakh isolation beds and 24,000 ICU beds, and nearly 15,000 ventilators,” he said.

He added that India, which did not produce personal protective equipment and N-95 masks for the last 70 years, is now producing them under Make in India.


Also read: UP doctor alleges viral video provoked mob to attack his team in Moradabad, police to probe


 

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India

Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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