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MHA asks states to provide adequate security to healthcare workers; appoint nodal officers

New Delhi, April 22: The Centre on Wednesday asked all states and union territories to provide adequate security to doctors and frontline health workers who are facing attacks from unruly people.
In a letter to chief secretaries of all states and union territories, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also flagged a few heinous instances of unruly behaviour by people where the families and relatives of medical professionals, suspected to have died due to COVID-19 infection, were prevented from performing the last rites of the deceased.
“In such cases, adequate security should be provided; and stringent action should be taken against such offenders who obstruct the performance of last rites of medical professionals or frontline healthcare workers, who, unfortunately, succumb to the infection from COVID-19 while discharging their services, or otherwise,” the letter said.
Bhalla said the state governments and union territory administrations are also requested to appoint nodal officers at state or union territory level and at district level, who would be available 24×7 to redress any safety issue on the functioning of medical professionals.
The states and union territories should also take immediate and strict action in case any incident of violence takes place, he said.
Bhalla also said necessary police security should also be extended to doctors and other medical staff who visit places to conduct screening of people to find out symptoms of disease.
The home secretary’s letter came hours after a delegation of doctors and Indian Medical Association had an interaction with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, who assured them security for healthcare workers.
The central government on Wednesday also decided to promulgate an ordinance specifying penal provisions against those who attacks on healthcare workers.
In his letter, Bhalla also highlighted his three earlier communications where he had requested chief secretaries and DGPs to ensure adequate protection to healthcare professionals, medical staff and frontline workers by augmenting their safety and security cover.
“In spite of these communications, some incidents of violence have been reported from different parts of the country against healthcare professionals and frontline workers,” he said.
Bhalla urged the states and union territories to invoke provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 or any other law in force, to take strict penal action against the offenders who obstruct government health officials or other health professionals or related persons, who are authorised under the said act in the discharge of their lawful services.
“You are aware that the whole-hearted and untiring services rendered by the entire medical fraternity, while even risking their lives, has enabled the country to resist the spread of the highly infectious COVID-19 virus, that has already been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).”
At this time, Bhalla said, any single incident of violence against healthcare professionals is likely to create a sense of insecurity amongst the entire healthcare community.
He drew attention of the chief secretaries to the April 8 direction of the Supreme Court where it had said, “The government of India, respective states and union territories and respective police authorities are directed to provide the necessary police security to the doctors and medical staff in hospitals and places where patients who have been diagnosed COVID-19 or patients suspected of COVID-19 or those quarantined are housed.”
This direction of the apex court was conveyed by the home ministry to all states and union territories on April 11.
“Therefore, it is the responsibility of all state governments and union territory administrations, district administrations and law enforcement agencies to take all necessary measures to ensure adequate protection to healthcare professionals and frontline workers, and to prevent any incident of violence against them,” the letter said.
The measures to be taken in this regard should be finalised in consultation with the local chapters of the Indian Medical Association and the members of the IMA should be kept apprised of the actions taken to create a sense of security and confidence among the health fraternity.
He also impressed upon the strict penalties provided under the Disaster Management Act against any person who obstructs any officer or employee of the central government or the state government, or any authorised person in the discharge of his duties.
The home secretary said details of preventive measures taken and appointment of nodal officers should be widely publicised among the medical fraternity, including the local chapters of the IMA, as well as to the public at large, to ensure compliance at ground level.
Further, it is requested that details of action taken by state governments and union territory administrations should be informed to the home ministry and the health ministry. (PTI)