Kerala approves ordinance for protection of those working in health services sector

The ordinance provides that acts of violence against healthcare workers or those working in healthcare institutions shall be punished.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 17, 2023 | 2:47 PMUpdatedMay 17, 2023 | 2:48 PM

Kerala health workers protection act

In the wake of the brutal killing of a young doctor in Kerala last week, the state government on Wednesday, 17 May, approved an ordinance aimed at protecting doctors, healthcare workers, and medical students.

A Cabinet meeting, chaired by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during the day, approved the Kerala Health Care Service Workers and Health Care Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Amendment Ordinance, 2012, a government statement said.

It said the existing unamended law covered registered and provisionally registered medical practitioners, registered nurses, medical students, nursing students, and paramedical staff working in healthcare institutions.

Also read: Man held in Kerala for attempt to assault doctor

Protection extended to paramedical students

Under the ordinance, the protection under the law would be extended to the paramedical students also, it said.

Besides that, paramedical staff, security guards, managerial staff, ambulance drivers, helpers who are posted and working in health care institutions and health workers notified in the official government gazette from time to time will also be included in the ordinance, the statement said.

Under the ordinance, anyone found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to any healthcare worker or professional would be punished with imprisonment ranging from one year to seven years and a fine between ₹1 lakh to ₹5 lakh would be imposed upon them, it said.

The ordinance also provides that anyone who commits or attempts to commit or incites or inspires an act of violence against healthcare workers or those working in healthcare institutions shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than 6 months and up to 5 years and with a fine between ₹50,000 and ₹2 lakh, it said.

The ordinance will now be sent for the approval of the Kerala Governor.

Related: Kerala to amend hospital protection law

KUHS students make recommendations

The students’ union of the Thrissur-based Kerala University of Health Sciences (KUHS) has made a set of recommendations to ensure the safety of healthcare workers.

The recommendations were made after holding talks with the students and the union’s executive members.

Speaking to South First, Aqueel Mohammed, the chairperson of the union, said the recommendations included adequate security measures by declaring hospitals as “safe zones” and establishing proper working manuals and duty hours for house surgeons and resident doctors.

The government, meanwhile, has instructed officials to temporarily exclude house surgeons from night shifts, and ensure weekly off days for them.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had convened an emergency high-level meeting on 11 May, a day after the doctor was killed, following the protest of doctors and other healthcare workers and decided to issue the ordinance.

It was also decided that police outposts would be set up in all major hospitals in the state, the chief minister’s office (CMO) said in a statement.

Kerala Health Minister Veena George, Chief Secretary VP Joy, the health, law, and medical education secretaries, the state police chief, ADGPs, and various other officials attended the meeting.

Related: KUHS students’ union urges government to roll out security measures

The incident

Dr Vandana Das, a native of the Kaduthuruthy area of the Kottayam district and the only child of her parents was a house surgeon at Azeezia Medical College Hospital working at the Kottarakkara taluk hospital as part of her training.

Dr Vandana Das. (Supplied)

She was stabbed multiple times with a pair of surgical scissors by an alleged drug addict and teacher.

The accused, G Sandeep, a school teacher by profession is currently under police custody. He was brought to the hospital by police for the treatment of a leg injury.

He had dialled the emergency number 112, claiming his life was in danger. When local police located him, he was standing away from his home, surrounded by residents and his relatives and had a wound on his leg and a stick in his hand.

He was taken to the hospital accompanied by his brother-in-law and a local political party leader.

During the dressing of his wound, he got violent. He initially stabbed the politician and the police there and then repeatedly stabbed Das, who could not escape to safety.

Das, who sustained grievous injuries in the attack, died a few hours after the incident.

The government’s decision to issue the ordinance came hours after the Kerala High Court said that the incident had been an outcome of a “systemic failure”.

(With PTI inputs)