Prevention of Vandalism, Violence Against Staff and Damage to Hospital Property by Patients’ Attendants/Public

Doctors and owners of nursing homes and private hospitals had been demanding some legislative action to protect them from such acts of unjustified violence, since long.

In order to control such violence and vandalism the governments in various states have enacted legislations. Salient aspects of the law in force in one state—the state of Tamil Nadu (since July, 2008) is discussed below:

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“An Act to prohibit violence against medicare service persons and damage or loss to property of medicare service institutions and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.”

The Act, vide Section 2, includes:

1. All medicare service institutions providing medicare to people, whether under the control of the State or the Central Government or local bodies including any private hospital, maternity home, nursing home or convalescent home.

2. All medicare service personnel including registered medical practitioners, registered nurses, medical students, nursing students, paramedical workers, employed and working in any medicare service institutions.

3. Any property, movable or immovable or medical equipment/machinery belonging to the medicare service personnel/institutions.

4. Any act of violence (causing, any harm, injury or endangering the life or intimidation, obstruction or hindrance to any medicare service person while discharging his duty in the medicare service institution or causing damage or loss to the property).

Offence and Punishment:

Under Section 3 if any person, either by himself or as a member or as a leader of a group of persons or organization, commits or attempts to commit or abets or incites the commission of any act of violence shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than three years but extendable to ten years and with fine.)

Vide Section 4, any offence committed under Section 3, shall be cognizable and non bailable.

Vide Section 5, in addition to the punishment specified in Section 3; the person committing the offence shall also be liable to pay compensation for the damage or loss caused to the property, as determined by the court, failing which the sum shall be recovered like the arrears of land revenue under the Revenue Recovery Act, 1864.

Position in Other States:

Legislations on similar lines have been enacted and implemented in many other states also such as Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Union Territory of Delhi. Under the Haryana Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2009, the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a period of three years and liability to a penalty of actual amount of purchase price of medical equipment damaged and the loss caused to the property, as may be determined by the competent court.

The Maharashtra Act (of 2008) has even more stringent punishments with a fine of Rs 50,000 for assaulting/attacking the doctors/other hospital employees and a penalty of twice the value of property damaged.

Recommended Additional Measures by the Hospitals to Reduce the Incidence of Violence:

To make these laws effective and deterrent, the health authorities, as well as the hospitals, need to inform and educate the public, through public notices, about:

a. The provisions of the law and the punishments for indulging in such acts of violence.

b. Availability of a system of redressal of patients’ grievances and informing the public/ patients about the procedure for seeking redressal.

The hospital management would also do well to inspire the public confidence by:

a. Prompt and fair redressal of patients’ grievances to the satisfaction of the aggrieved.

b. Elimination of all dissatisfies/potential provocations for such violence through an effective patient safety management system and improved communication with the patients/their attendants.

c. Sympathetic and helpful attitude and tactful handling of the irate/agitated mobs.

d. Resorting to preemptive information to police whenever the situation is serious and expected to go out of control.