The Corona spike in Goa has pinned our healthcare community under humongous pressure. As if this was not exhausting enough, our real-life heroes are now out there braving violence and assault from the angry kin of patients. Two such incidents on April 18 and April 28 have led to over 300 of them issuing a formal warning to withdraw their services.
Instances of brutal attacks on doctors by enraged family members of patients have, unfortunately, never been uncommon in the country. But it still comes as shocking what people’s frenzy has been driving them into, even amid a global pandemic, when the medical community is quite literally our lifeline today.
The two attacks occurring back-to-back within 10 days, led to doctors and residents from across the state uniting against such treatment, with the warning to go on strike if the incidents repeat.
The Goa Association of Resident Doctors (GARD) was quoted expressing their grievances thus-
“It saddens us immensely that even after giving our best efforts while being crippled by lack of adequate facilities, oxygen supply, beds, manpower etc. we have been on the receiving end of multiple threats and violent incidents in the past,”. The press note was issued on Thursday, 29 April following the rampage at Goa Medical College (GMC) the previous day.
On April 28, the angry family and relatives of a patient allegedly attacked resident doctors and nurses and also destroyed a ventilator. Just 10 days earlier, a similar incident took place at the South Goa District Hospital (SGDH) in Margao, which involved abuse and mistreatment of the on-duty doctors and medical staff by the family of a deceased patient.
It has rightfully elicited dismay, anger, and fear among the doctors, particularly the residents who seem to always be on the receiving end of such threats and abuse over lack of bed and other facilities.
In light of the same, they urged the people of Goa to understand the risks and sacrifices they are undertaking in favour of greater good. In the notice, the residents reiterate that they too have families who battle apprehension and worry each day so as to fearlessly support their loved ones in serving the people.
“The people of Goa need to understand that we have joined GMC as postgraduate students and are providing medical services as a part of learning… And if the coronavirus wasn’t enough, we now have to face backlash from the very people we are trying to serve”, it stated.
They have announced the withdrawal of their services in the case of repetition of such violent attacks against the staff working at GMC/SGDH/ESI or any other Covid hospital. The GARD also refused to tolerate administrative failures in providing them with adequate security. The notice read- “We, the 300-odd doctors managing almost all the workload of Covid-19 in the state, will have no choice but to withdraw our services with immediate effect…”.
They further added that the strike will be initiated without any further notice if at all such circumstances arise, and that they are not responsible for any untoward consequences that may hence arise.
In response to the alarming events, the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) on Friday urged patients and their family members to respect and appreciate the efforts of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers. GCCI president Manoj Caculo reiterated that attacking medical staff cannot be justified and action needs to be taken against those responsible for such violence.
He also appealed to the state government to ensure proper security to all medical professionals and health workers.
With our test positivity rate reaching a semi-century and over 3,000 cases being reported on a single day as the month of April ended, the pandemic has been on an all-time high in Goa. Owing to its initial under-preparedness, the state was faced with an acute shortage of an adequate number of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, ICU and ventilator set-ups, and other essentials. Even though steps are now being taken by the government to pace up with the requirement, these limitations are making it more challenging for the medical staff to save lives despite best efforts.
Under the current circumstances, our healthcare fraternity is already being pushed beyond the limit. It is a shame that they are being forced to rally for basic necessities like a secure work environment, dignity, and more humane treatment. These are trying times for everyone alike, and we can all do with more sensitivity and empathy towards each other. On that note, let us commit to the safety and well-being of our frontline warriors who are shouldering the most daunting responsibility for us in these dark times.