Around 4,500 resident doctors in Maharashtra boycotted work on Friday (all the 26 government hospitals) in solidarity with doctors protesting across the country against the assault on two doctors from NRS College in Kolkata by the kin of a patient. The doctors’ agitation that started in Kolkata early this week has now spread across India. AIIMS Delhi along with the other centres in Patna, Raipur, Rajasthan, and Punjab joined the agitation in solidarity with their colleagues in Bengal. Medical services in some places were badly hit. The entire healthcare system in West Bengal has been affected for the past four days. Over 70 doctors have resigned in the state so far. Meanwhile, the Calcutta High Court on PIL of Kunal Saha of People for Better Treatment, who seeks that the doctors’ strike be declared illegal, sought details of what steps had been taken by the West Bengal government on the attack on doctors and doctors’ strike, by next Friday.
On being asked about the effect of the doctor’s strike, Dean of state-run JJ hospital Dr. Ajay Chandanwale said, “Majority of resident doctors were on strike. Medical services were hit in the hospital. But we managed all essential services. Only planned surgeries are differed.”
According to reports, Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) observed a one-day strike in the state. People faced a lot of problems as medical services were hit in the entire state, including Mumbai. Patients and their relatives were seen wandering to and fro. Doctors from Mumbai’s J.J. Hospital, KEM Hospital, and Nair Hospital, among others, struck work on Friday. Doctors from government medical colleges and hospitals in Maharashtra and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in Mumbai participated in the agitation. A similar attack on three resident doctors in Mumbai’s J.J. Hospital last year had affected medical services in the city after a strike was called till the government looked into the matter of doctor’s security at government hospitals.
Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) central president Kalyani Dongre said that over 4,500 resident doctors, as well as 5,000 interns, participated in the strike. Dr. Dongre said, “We shut down Out Patient Department (OPD), wards and academic services from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We expressed our protest on our campuses with black ribbons, slogans, and street plays. Emergency services, such as casualty wards and operation theatres, were not hampered.”
The Association of State Medical Interns (ASMI) that represents over 5,000 medical interns in the State from government medical colleges, and the Municipal Medical Teachers Association, all MCGM Medical, Dental, OT and PT institutions also participated in the strike. The doctors have demanded deployment of strong and trained security personnel in hospitals for controlling crowds.
ASMI president Hrushikesh Mankar said, “Security at government hospitals across the country needs to be strengthened. The current Central government, including the Health Minister and Defence Minister, should look into the fraternity’s needs. Courts should enforce strong punishment against the culprits so that there will be no incidents like this henceforth”.
On the other hand, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned striking doctors. She said that doctors who don’t return to work must leave the hostel. They are outsiders. The government will not support them in any way. She said, “I condemn doctors who have gone on strike. Policemen die in the line of duty but the police don’t go on a strike.” She has accused the BJP and the CPM of engineering the strike and playing “Hindu-Muslim politics.” Meanwhile, condemning the violence against doctors in Kolkata, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged patients and their attendants to exercise restraint and said he will take up the matter of doctors’ security with Chief Ministers of all states and Union Territories.
TMC MP Sajda Ahmed said, “The Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee is very grieved for the patients and common man of the state. They are suffering due to strike. That is why she warned resident doctors to call off the strike. Attack on doctors is wrong. Actually, doctors are like god and people should respect them.”
Doctors at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) were seen wearing helmets and bandages as they attended to patients. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) directed members of its state branches to stage protests and wear black badges in solidarity with West Bengal doctors on Friday. It will also ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to bring out a central law against such violence. The Delhi Medical Association too has called for a statewide medical shutdown. In Hyderabad, doctors staged a protest at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences. Instances of medical personnel being assaulted by relatives of patients are common across the country. In April, authorities of the RML Hospital in Delhi filed a police complaint against a patient’s relative after he allegedly slapped a woman doctor. Earlier this month, a case was registered against a 17-year-old boy and his friend for allegedly assaulting a doctor at a Maharashtra hospital after his father died during treatment.
It is notable that Medical services have been widely affected. The relative of a patient at AIIMS said, “My mother’s dialysis was scheduled for today, we were told to go and get it done from somewhere else.” Emergency wards, outpatient facilities, and pathological units of many state-run medical colleges and hospitals and a large number of private medical facilities in West Bengal were not functioning. NRS Medical College and Hospital Principal Saibal Mukherjee and medical Superintendent cum Vice Principal Prof. Saurabh Chattopadhyaya have resigned for failing to overcome the crisis at the institution. A delegation of the protesting doctors met Bengal Governor KN Tripathi and presented their demands.
Meanwhile, opposition parties slammed Mamata Banerjee for her threats to agitating doctors and sought her immediate resignation as the health minister. BJP leader Mukul Roy alleged that Mamata Banerjee has become authoritarian and is behaving like “Hitler”. According to reports, doctors’ strike has hit medical services in the entire country and patients had to face a lot of difficulties.