Delhi: The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has demanded a strict law to prevent violence against doctors and health care workers. It has decided to observe 23 April as “black day” following the Chennai incident where locals attacked the ambulance carrying the body of a doctor who had died of COVID-19. The locals were against burying the body in their area for fear of infection.

The IMA has demanded that a strict Central law be put in place to prevent such violence and insensitivity towards doctors. “Doctors have been abused, beaten up, denied entry and residence. Denying proper burial is the last straw. If dignity is denied even in death, our patience and restraint lose their value. We demand a special Central law against violence on doctors, nurses, health care workers, and hospitals by an ordinance,” the association said.

It said black day will be observed if the government fails to enact a law to protect the doctors and medical workers even after the white alert. “IMA declares Thursday as a black day. All doctors in the country will work with black badges. Further decisions will be taken if suitable steps are not taken by the government even after Thursday.”
Meanwhile, all doctors and hospitals have decided to light candles as a “white alert” to the nation at 9 p.m on 22 April.

In an official statement, the IMA said, “Stigma and social boycott are everywhere. Harassment by the administration is nothing but violence by the state. Our patience and restraint are signs of strength. Our legitimate needs for safe workplaces have to be met.”

A 55-year-old doctor, who was undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at Chennai’s Apollo hospital, died on Sunday. He had likely contracted the disease from the patients he was treating. A large crowd had obstructed his cremation because they feared the spread of the virus. The local residents also assaulted the doctor’s family and friends who had accompanied the body.

Taking a serious note of the incident, the IMA warned retaliation if cremations are obstructed. It called the incident the ultimate sacrilege. The association said it’s a matter of great concern that doctors who died in the line of duty are being treated shabbily and in such an uncivilised manner. It also condemned the apathy of the state governments in preventing such incidents.

“No country sends its Army to war without weapons. The doctors, nurses, and health care workers of this country have been sent to fight COVID-19 without any Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and they are dying while defending others. If the value of such service is ignored, the easiest thing for the medical community to do is to stay home,” the association had said.

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