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#DoctorsDay – `Need for an alternative tribunal for medical issues’ 

Over 100 Doctors, Patients, Activists Attend Discussion
Patients harried by unethical doctors, profitminded hospitals and poor government redressal mechanism should, along with like-minded doctors, set up an alternative tribunal to resolve healthcare-related matters. This consensus emerged at a public discussion titled, “Dear Doctor, how should we heal our health system“, held on Friday on Doctor’s Day .The discussion, organised by NGO Sathi along with The Times of India, saw a turnout of over a hundred aggrieved patients, doctors and health activists.

“Over 80% of the 1,000odd cases filed by patients against doctors with the Maharashtra Medical Council since 2005 haven’t been heard so far,“ said Dr Abhay Shukla of Sathi.

“There hence seems to be a case for setting up an alternative to the Maharashtra Medical Council’s (MMC) ethics committee, which listens to patient’s cases,“ he added. MMC is a quasi-judicial body made up of allopathic doctors that acts as a watchdog of the profession, and has powers to cancel or suspend registration of its member doctors.

Earlier, speakers such as veteran medical teacher Dr Vijay Azgaonkar and Raj Asrondkar from the Forum for Patient’s Rights underlined how poor communication had worsened the doctor-patient relationship.

“People are losing faith in their doctors. Patients are marked as consumers. There have been cases of patients admitted to ICCU with muscular pain in the chest.Such patients have at times even been put through angioplasty and angiography ,“ said Dr Azgaonkar. Asrondkar said the book, Dissenting Diagnosis, written by Dr Shukla and Dr Arun Gadre, had interviews of 78 doctors on unethical practices in the medical field. “But more than half the doctors haven’t named themselves. This shows the level of fear they have. Until we talk about it, nothing can be done,“ said Asrondkar.

Dr Sanjay Nagral, a surgeon and founder member of the Forum for Medical Ethics Society , pointed out that until a few years back, the Association for Consumer Action on Safety & Health had a committee made up of doctors and civil society members that advised aggrieved patients on medical negligence cases. “Most of the cases never went beyond this advisory group because patients dropped the matter once a neutral doctor or committee studied the case and ruled that there had been no medical negligence in the case,“ he said.

One of the attendees, Dr Nita Rambhia, said she had worked in ESIS hospitals in the city where she had delivered babies without electricity. “Even a suction isn’t working. Electricity is off for four hours or more every day .There is a need to improve the public health system as well,“ she said.

Dr Armida Fernandez, who was the former dean of Sion Hospital, said doctors are a part of society . “There should be an effort to heal not only the doctors but society as a whole.“

Mumbai branch of doc forum floated

Following the Friday meeting, over 40 doctors in Mumbai got together on Saturday evening to float the Mumbai branch of the Indian Doctors for Ethical Practice.“This organization of rational doctors has already been in existence in Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad,“ said Dr Abhay Shukla of NGO Sathi. The group will soon hold a workshop on how to work with patient groups.

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