Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan on Tuesday, 23 May, signed an ordinance that provides for stringent punishment for those found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to those working in the healthcare services sector in the state, official sources said.
The punishment includes imprisonment of up to seven years and a maximum fine of ₹5 lakh
The ordinance was approved on 17 May, in a Cabinet meeting chaired by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the wake of the brutal killing of Dr. Vandana Das by a patient — school teacher G Sandeep — at a taluk hospital in Kollam district.
Under the Kerala Healthcare Service Workers and Healthcare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Amendment 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 of ₹1 lakh to ₹5 lakh.
The ordinance also says 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 of not less than six months and up to five years and with a fine between ₹50,000 and ₹2 lakh.
Besides the enhancement of punishment, the ordinance states that the trials in cases lodged under the Act have to be completed promptly and that special courts will be designated in each district to ensure speedy adjudication.
The ordinance also states that cases registered under the Act have to be investigated by a police officer, not below the rank of Inspector, and the probe has to be completed within 60 days of registration of the FIR.
Furthermore, the ordinance extends the protection under the Act to paramedical students, security guards, managerial staff, ambulance drivers, and helpers who are posted and working in healthcare institutions as well as those health workers who would be notified in the official government gazette from time to time.
Related: Recurring attacks tarnish image of healthcare sector
Before the ordinance
Before the amendment, under the Kerala Healthcare Service Workers and Healthcare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act of 2012, any act of violence against a healthcare service person or damage to property of a medical institution carried a punishment of a maximum three years imprisonment and a fine up to ₹50,000.
Earlier, the protection under the Act was only available to registered and provisionally registered medical practitioners, registered nurses, medical students, nursing students, and paramedical staff working in healthcare institutions.
Related: Kerala to amend hospital protection law
Dr Vandana Das, a native of the Kaduthuruthy in the Kottayam district and the only child of her parents was a house surgeon at Azeezia Medical College Hospital and was working at the Kottarakkara taluk hospital as part of her training.
Sandeep, who was brought there by the police for medical treatment during the wee hours of 10 April, went on a sudden attacking spree using a pair of surgical scissors kept in the room where his leg injury was being dressed.
He had initially attacked the police officers and a private person who had accompanied him to the hospital and then turned on the young doctor who could not escape to safety.
She was stabbed several times and later succumbed to her injuries in a private hospital in Thiruvananthapuram where she was rushed following the attack.
Related: Dr Vandana’s mortal remains laid to rest
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