The World Medical Association has condemned as ‘utterly heartless’ increasing reports from across the world of physicians and other health care staff being attacked because of the fear they will spread the COVID-19 virus.
Dr. Frank Montgomery, Chair of the WMA Council, said the stigma that physicians dealing with infected patients pose a risk was leading to numerous reports of abuse and physical violence.
He said: ‘The situation in India is particularly shocking. Physicians and other health care staff are being stigmatised. They are being ostracized, discriminated against and even physically attacked’.
Dr. Ravindra Wankhedkar, from India and Treasurer of the World Medical Association, said: ‘We have heard of one incident where, during the cremation of a doctor, a mob attacked with sticks and stones and caused severe injuries to ambulance drivers and health inspectors. These doctors died in their line of duty and yet in their death they are being treated shabbily and in such an uncivilized manner’.
Dr. Montgomery added: ‘We support the Indian Medical Association in their public warning that these incidents must not be allowed to continue’.
Other incidents of doctors and nurses being abused and spat at have been reported across the world, including Turkey, France, the UK and Mexico. Dr. Montgomery said that this inhuman behaviour was a slur on all civilized countries, and governments had a duty to protect those who were struggling to care for patients during this virus.