Chandreyee Ghose, TT, April 8: Hundreds of men and women, many of them in white coats and with stethoscopes flung over their necks, defied the blazing sun today to march in protest against the state's new clinical establishments act, which they said would instil fear in doctors and small medical establishments and come in the way of treatment.
The walk culminated in a programme at Rotary Sadan, where several doctors questioned the efficacy of the act.
Doctor after doctor wondered if the watchdog formed under the new act would be capable of judging medical negligence. Being under the scanner of people who may not be experts in the particular discipline would discourage doctors from taking risks in critical cases, they said.
"We often take risks to save a life. If a decision backfires and the doctor is attacked, he will be too scared to take such risks," cardiac surgeon Binayak Chanda said.
Chanda said the watchdog had almost crippled smaller units who cannot afford to pay a hefty compensation in case of allegations of negligence.
"Ultimately, the quality of health care will suffer," said another doctor who did not want to be named.
Surgical oncologist Gautam Mukhopadhyay was of the view that the act had led to a breakdown of doctor-patient trust and turned doctors and clinical establishments into "soft targets". "Not all negative outcomes are a result of negligence," he said.
Mukhopadhyay pointed out there was no penalty for those who wrongly accuse a doctor and tarnish his goodwill.
"How will we treat if we fear repercussion all the time? The only way out is to stick to a safe method of treatment. However, in complicated cases we need to take risks, at times even before we can explain the step to a patient's family," said oncologist Madhuchanda Kar.
Members of the West Bengal Doctors Forum, which organised the protest, demanded a review of the act. "We support the spirit of the law. But we want some clauses to be amended. We also want more protection for doctors against violence," consultant oncologist Sharadwat Mukhopadhyay said.
The protesting doctors marched from the Gandhi statue at the Mayo Road crossing to Rotary Sadan, carrying banners and placards. "Not angels, nor demons, we are mere humans", read one of them.
The participants included some doctors from government hospitals, who demanded improvement of the facilities at state-run institutions so that patients aren't forced to opt for private treatment beyond their means. "Why will an accident victim on Kona Expressway prefer a private unit to the nearest government hospital?" asked Rezaul Karim, radiologist at a government hospital.
Karim added that state-run hospitals would collapse if private units were forced to shut down. "We don't even have enough beds," he said.