Physicians in India feel threatened and their lives are in danger, according to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, AAPI, which is calling on the Indian government to take steps to remedy the situation, which if left unattended, could affect India’s global image as a rising power.
The umbrella organization which has nearly 90 local chapters specialty societies and alumni organizations in the U.S., and is involved in efforts to improve healthcare services in India for decades, sent a letter to the Prime Minister of India March 27,expressing dismay over what it says are numerous instances of violence against Indian medical personnel in several Indian states.
According to AAPI, some hospital administrators in India have begun to hire bouncers to deter relatives of patients from being aggressive and the medical fraternity in several states is on strike because of recent incidents of violence against doctors.
“We strongly condemn this ongoing violence. And we want immediate action against the culprits, who have been carrying on these criminal acts. We are shocked by the lack of coherent action against such violence and protect members of this noble fraternity,” said Dr. Ajay Lodha, president of AAPI, in the letter.
“We at AAPI, the largest ethnic medical organization in the nation, urge the government of India to make all the efforts possible and put an end to this ongoing violence against medical professionals and enable them to continue to serve the country with dignity, pride and security,” the letter says, according to a press release from AAPI.
Physicians of Indian origin are well known around the world for their compassion, passion for patient care, medical skills, research, and leadership, the letter says and expresses shock that well-intentioned medical personnel were allegedly being attacked by the very people they are trying to help.
“Violence against doctors has reached such an extreme in India that the medical staff is afraid to come to work and they need a police presence in the hospitals where they work,” Dr. Lodha said.
The letter says that 49 doctors have been attacked in Maharashtra alone since 2015; that the Indian Medical Association had reported more than 75 percent of physicians have had to deal with some degree of violence or aggression.
“Shockingly, a large proportion of doctors don’t report such incidents, believing them to be a part of the job so the true figures are likely to be higher,” says the letter, adding that violence ranges “from minor verbal abuse all the way through to the murder or attempted murder of staff.”
It called for strengthening security at medical facilities, enhancing the doctor-patient relationship, improving the quality of medical facilities, and reducing the financial burden on poor people seeking care.
According to Lodha, the recent rapid increase in violence has the potential to tarnish India’s image globally as a rising super power with immense opportunities in healthcare.