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Doctors explain why Anjana Om Kashyap and Ajit Anjum heckling doctors to report on Encephalitis was insensitive and way off the mark

With both the journalists, the aim was to assign blame of the deaths of children suffering from Encephalitis and in the process, they ended up humiliating overworked doctors on national television.

After the recent outbreak of Encephalitis in Bihar, the media has been visiting hospitals around Bihar and trying to ascertain why the children are not being treated adequately. Recently, the reportage of Aaj Tak journalist Anjana Om Kashyap and TV Bharatvarsh journalist Ajit Anjum raised concerns of how bullish and high-handed the media was being with unsuspecting doctors who were only doing their job.

Anjana Om Kashyap had barged into the ICU of a Bihar hospital and heckled the doctor on duty, asking him questions about Encephalitis care. She had essentially stopped the doctor, who was doing his job, and asked him why a patient who had just come in was not being attended to. She had also heckled a nurse in the process of her third-degree interrogation.

In a similar video, Ajit Anjum of TV Bharatvarsh had displayed brute behaviour when he hackled and yelled at a nurse while in a Bihar hospital trying to cover the Encephalitis outbreak. Ajit Anjum went and heckled a senior doctor who was on duty questioning him about the number of ICUs, deaths and treatment being administered, trying his best to insinuate that there was a dearth of doctors treating children. He even blamed the doctor of being in one ICU while death had occurred in another ICU, insinuating inadequate treatment without finding out the condition of the patient.

While on the face of it, the conduct of both journalists is reprehensible, to truly understand the depth of the errors in journalism here OpIndia reached out to several doctors to understand what could have been done differently and how the journalists concerned endangered lives of the patients with their overzealous reportage.

Access to ICU questionable

The doctors OpIndia spoke to unanimously said that the first and foremost problem with the reportage of Anjana Om Kashyap and Ajit Anjum was their access to the Intensive Care Unit. The consensus was the journalists should not have barged into an active and busy patient care area like that.

The doctors also pointed out that the journalists did not seem to care about the patients’ and relatives’ permission to be recorded on video. This would need consents as there will be privacy and sensitivity issues.

Heckling while working

The doctors said that in both videos, Anjana Om Kashyap and Ajit Anjum seem to be heckling the nurses and doctors while they were actually working. This not only disturbs their workflow, it also flusters people and leads to them making errors in such a demanding situation.

Can’t tell a doctor how to prioritise medical work

In both videos, journalists Anjana Om Kashyap and Ajit Anjum seem to ask doctors as to why they prioritised the work in the manner that they did. While Anjana was asking why a patient who had been wheeled in moments ago was not being taken care of, Anjit was heckling the doctor about why patients in other ICUs are not being taken care of.

The doctors OpIndia spoke to took strong exception to this line of questioning by the journalists.

One doctor said, “It was none of their business to tell how the doctor who was working how to prioritize his day or work. He wasn’t lazing around, just that his priorities of patients were different from what she insisted upon. This is actual ‘interference in medical care’ and could certainly land her behind bars in many countries”.

Specifically, in Anjana Om Kashyap’s case, the doctor said, “She assumed that the patient that was just wheeled in had to be seen straight away (leaving all other work aside). It’s possible the child was seen and stabilized on admission in the Emergency Department or other areas- as in primary observations, IV access etc. Often nurses would do the primary observations and interventions before the doctors would do more specific diagnostics”.

Interestingly, Ajit had done exactly the same while heckling the doctor about why a doctor was not present in one of the ICUs. This is the same issue that the doctor concerned had raised that journalists are not in the position to pass judgements on how doctors should be prioritising their work.

“How many died today?”

Anjana Om Kashyap had in a brazen manner questioned the doctor about ‘how many children had died’ on that day. The tone was, of course, accusatory and arrogant, but beyond that, one has to understand why technically that was a silly question to ask the doctor in the first place.

The doctor we spoke to said, “It was certainly not meant to help. The individual doctor manning the ward isn’t obviously the person to ask such statistics. He wouldn’t have the live audit of the hospital with him, he would have info about individual patients he was managing. Such data questions should be asked to the administration office/medical superintendent office where the reports are compiled. She obviously asked it just to further heckle the doctor, implying he was responsible for all those deaths”.

The overwhelming consensus was that the two journalists simply deteriorated the mental stability of doctors who are overworked and are already dealing with a stressful situation of caring for 100s of children. Information regarding an outbreak like this should be availed from administrative offices instead of heckling the doctors directly. However, if they really did want to interact with people directly involved in care, the line of questioning should have been extremely different.

The journalists ideally should have asked the doctors what they would need to provide better care for the patients instead of heckling and blaming them while they were working. The questions should have also been posed to them while they were off duty instead of taking time away from the actual patients to blame and humiliate them on national television.

In fact, one of the doctors we spoke to went as far as to say, “All that heckling and anxiety generated from that and being on TV and in such negative way, that doctors’ performance in hospital and the mental situation will be bad for who knows how long!”

With both the journalists, the aim was to assign blame of the deaths of children suffering from Encephalitis and in the process, they ended up humiliating overworked doctors on national television. Doctors in government hospitals usually work with fewer facilities and are underpaid. For them to now see their faces on national television, being humiliated, will go to shatter morale and eventually, affect the care they are providing to patients.

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Nupur J Sharma
Editor, since October 2017

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