A 400-strong force of state security force personnel now guards the gates of the city's main municipal run hospitals. It is a sad commentary that the guards, some of them armed, have been posted here to ensure that patients do not turn violently on the very doctors appointed to cure them.
That however is not the end of the story. A round of some departments in these and peripheral hospitals shows that the promised security is yet to be set up in some places. Only one guard has been posted outside the CVTV (cardiac wing) building at the KEM Hospital in Parel. Resident doctors studying cardiology work in this building. A similar situation exists at the Sion and Cooper (Juhu) hospitals, says Indian Medical Association youth wing president Sagar Mundada. He however adds that the actual beefing up of security could happen by the end of April, and that some positive changes are already being felt. Interestingly, only the civic hospitals offering medical education have been offered extra security, since these house the resident doctors.
According to cardiologist Dr Ankur Phatarpekar who works with the KEM Hospital, the additional security at the main KEM hospital building could offer a modicum of safety to the cardiac wing as well. The scuffles and arguments that arise between patients and doctors are a cumulative effect of paucity of medical equipment, a skewed doctor-patient ratio and the ever increasing rush to civic hospitals, he says.
A resident doctor with a civic hospital, Dr Sunny Shinde told Mumbai Live that conditions have only marginally improved at civic hospitals and safety measures are yet to be put into place.
"The intensive care units still do not have adequate guards posted outside them. Several patients and their relatives often converge here at a time, often confusing the resident doctors," says another resident doctor Dr Abhijit Ilale.
Mumbai Live conducted spot checks at both the KEM and Nair Hospital (Mumbai Central) on Tuesday to check if the increased security had improved conditions at both hospitals. Guards posted at both hospitals were seen meticulously checking the veracity of each patient and the relatives before letting them in with valid passes.
The KEM hospital now boasts an alarm system in several departments, including the casualty, ICU, surgery departments. Threatened medicos will now be able to immediately notify the guards and summon help.
80 security staff have been appointed at the KEM Hospital, among them 15 armed guards. These are in addition to the 131 of the hospital's own security staff. The new force mans the main entrance to the hospital 1,2 , 3, 7, the ICU department, and the casualty department.
KEM hospital deputy superintendent Dr Milind Salve points out, "At any given time, there are more than 7000 patients visiting the hospital. Even if two relatives accompany the patient, the number of visitors crosses 21,000."
JJ Hospital head Dr Tatyarao Lahane however is optimistic that the additional security will help reduce the continued attacks on doctors in public hospitals.
After 1 May, 300 more guards will be deployed at these hospitals. The additional forces are being currently deployed for a period of one year.
Will the new measures help reduce patient angst and doctors' anxiety? Time should tell.