Paralysing hospital services, both in the private and government sectors, doctors in the Capital on Friday boycotted work, observed a black day and also met Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to express solidarity with their protesting colleagues in West Bengal and condemned the violence against doctors there.
The strike adversely hit out-patient departments and diagnostic services at several large hospitals in the city, including All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Lok Nayak Hospital, GTB Hospital, Hindu Rao, Ganga Ram Hospital. Patients were offered only emergency and ward services.
Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital and Dr. Baba Sahib Ambedkar Hospital have said that they would be joining the ‘pen-down’ protest from Saturday.
The nation-wide protest is a result of an incident at NRS Medical College in Kolkata on Monday night, in which a mob chased and attacked junior doctors after an 85-year-old man died at the hospital. One junior doctor has sustained a head injury following the attack. Doctors are now demanding additional security and assurance of a safe work environment.
“The gruesome incident in NRS Medical College, Kolkata, is of barbaric nature. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) condemns the violence perpetrated on a young doctor. The entire medical fraternity expresses solidarity with the resident doctors who are on strike,” noted IMA in a statement on Friday.
A delegation of doctors from the Capital also met Dr. Vardhan, who reiterated his demand to “observe restraint and assured the doctors that he would be speaking to the State authorities in West Bengal to ensure that incidents of this nature don’t occur again.”
Holding West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee responsible for “allowing the situation to get out of hand,” the Health Minister said: “Ultimately, the Chief Minister should have been able to contain the situation. You cannot give an ultimatum to the doctors who have been attacked at work by a mob. I don’t believe in strikes because patient care suffers but I assure all the doctors that we will provide a safe and violence-free environment for you to work.”
“I will be writing to all Chief Ministers across India to ensure that violence against hospital staff is dealt with zero tolerance,” he said on Friday afternoon.
A delegation of Resident Doctors Association (RDA) from AIIMS, who met with the Minister, said that they had now urged all the RDAs across the country to join the token strike in case “exemplary action is not taken against the people who attacked doctors in Bengal.”
“There is a complete breakdown of law and order, with reports of mobs attacking doctor hostels with weapons. The government has failed to provide protection and justice to doctors. The AIIMS RDA condemns this in words and in spirit. Residents across the country are deeply hurt by the turn of events,” the RDA said in a statement.
Doctors from various parts of the country, including Kerala, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Raipur, Chandigarh and Patna, have already joined the strike, with the IMA asking its State branches to stage protests and wear black badges as a mark of protest.
The Delhi Medical Association (DMA) too observed Black Day and said that it is ready for strong legislation and strict action against violence at hospitals.
Meanwhile, hospitals in the Capital put in place measures to ensure that patients did not suffer because of the strike.
“The AIIMS administration has already put in place contingency measures to take care of the admitted patients, including those in the ICUs and wards. On Friday, only follow-up patients with a prior appointment were registered in OPD, while registration of new patients will be done as per availability of the faculty. Diagnostic services were functional in a restricted manner,” said a senior AIIMS official.
“We have also asked heads of all clinical departments to make arrangements for round-the-clock availability of doctors of the concerned specialty either from research staff or by faculty members. Under no circumstances, any inpatient ward will function without physical availability of doctors of concerned specialty,” he added.
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