A week after a woman doctor was stabbed to death at a hospital in Kollam, the Kerala government on Wednesday approved an ordinance to increase the ambit of protection offered to healthcare workers in the state, PTI reported.
The Kerala Health Care Service Workers and Health Care Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Amendment Ordinance, 2012, was passed during a Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
On May 10, Vandana Das, 23, was stabbed with scissors and a scalpel when she was treating a wound on the accused person, G Sandeep, who was brought in for treatment by the police. Four police personnel were also injured in the incident.
Several doctors in the state had launched a strike demanding that the state government bring new legislation for the protection of hospitals with immediate effect. On May 11, the Kerala High Court had directed the state police to formulate protocols for ensuring the security of healthcare professionals.
Protesting doctors had said even though 200 cases have been registered under the 2012 Hospital Protection Act, not a single person has been convicted, reported The Hindu.
The ordinance now states that a police officer ranked not less than an inspector will investigate the cases under the Act and have to complete the probe under 60 days of the registering of the first information report.
The ordinance grants protection to paramedical students, security staff, helpers, ambulance drivers and managerial staff at hospitals. Previously, only registered medical practitioners, nurses, medical and nursing students and paramedical workers at medical service institutions were granted protection, according to PTI.
The state government also amended the penalties imposed on offenders according to the law, reported The Hindu.
According to the ordinance, any person who commits, attempts to commit, incites or inspires an act of violence against a health worker can be sent to jail for between six months to five years. A fine of not less than Rs 50,000 and more than Rs 2 lakh can also be imposed.
The amendment states that individuals who engage in “serious physical violence” against healthcare workers can face imprisonment from one to seven years, along with a minimum fine of Rs 1 lakh and a maximum fine of Rs 5 lakhs, according to the newspaper.
The ordinance will now be sent to Governor Arif Mohammed Khan for his approval and promulgation as law.