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Healthcare services hit as doctors pan-India go on strike

PTI New Delhi | Updated on June 17, 2019 Published on June 17, 2019

Medical students participate in a protest called by Indian Medical Association (IMA), during a nationwide doctors strike in Ahmedabad.   -  Reuters

The agitating doctors in West Bengal are likely to meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee later in the day

Healthcare services at government and private hospitals in the national capital will be hit on Monday as scores of doctors, including those at AIIMS, have decided to boycott work for a day in support of their striking colleagues in West Bengal.

Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, which earlier decided not to join the strike, announced withdrawal of all non-essential services from noon after a junior doctor at its trauma centre was assaulted in the early hours of Monday. The medico at the Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre was allegedly assaulted for “giving preferential care to a critical patient”, the RDA said in a statement.

Doctors of the AIIMS also held a protest march in the campus between 8 am and 9 am. “We once again urge the West Bengal administration to fulfil the demands of the striking doctors and resolve the matter amicably at the earliest in the best interest of the general public,” a statement issued by the RDA said, adding a meeting of its general body will be held at 6 pm to decide the further course of action.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has given the strike call with the withdrawal of non-essential health services across the country. IMA members will also stage a dharna at its headquarters here.

Related news: Doctors to go on a nation-wide strike on Monday

Doctors at the Centre-run Safdarjung Hospital, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital, RML Hospital, as well as Delhi government facilities such as GTB Hospital, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital and Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital are joining the strike.

The apex medical body, IMA, said all outpatient departments (OPDs), routine operation theatre services and ward visits will be withdrawn for 24 hours from 6 am on Monday to 6 am Tuesday. Emergency and casualty services will continue to function, it said.

The Delhi Medical Association (DMA) and the Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA) have extended their support to the strike. “Emergent Executive Committee Meeting convened decided to support the call given by IMA for withdrawal of non-essential services on 17th June (Monday) for 24 hours (6am to 6am) to protest against violence against doctors and hospitals. All clinics, nursing homes, diagnostic centres and hospitals are requested to shut down routine services,” a statement by the DMA said.

Junior doctors in West Bengal are on strike since June 11 after two of their colleagues were attacked and seriously injured allegedly by relatives of a patient who died at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata. In a show of solidarity, medical practitioners across the country have chose not to work, leaving patients in the lurch.

Also read: Doctors’ protest gets pan-India support

The apex medical body, IMA, has demanded a comprehensive central law in dealing with violence on doctors and healthcare staff. Security measures and the determinants leading to violence should also be addressed, it said in a statement. Meanwhile, the agitating doctors in West Bengal are likely to meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee later in the day at an auditorium adjacent to the state secretariat in Howrah, and work out ways to resolve the impasse.

Doctors in Assam join the nationwide strike

Medical services were hit as doctors across Assam joined the day-long strike called by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) in solidarity with their counterparts in Bengal.

Services have been withdrawn for 24 hours at the outpatient departments of all medical colleges and hospitals in the state, with the junior doctors observing a sit-in protest, sporting black badges. The doctors, with placards in hand, were seen demanding security for medicos across the country.

Some senior doctors and healthcare personnel took time off from work to participate in the protest. “On humanitarian grounds, we are providing emergency services. Only OPDs will remain closed for the day,” said a member of Junior Doctors’ Association.

Another doctor sought strict laws for their protection in view of the assault in the Kolkata hospital. “We demand laws for protection of doctors and strict implementation of legal provisions so that attendants of patients do not attack us in future,” he said.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had on Saturday asked states to consider enacting a specific legislation for protecting doctors and medical professionals from violence. The IMA has demanded a comprehensive central law in dealing with violence on doctors and healthcare staff.

Also read: Consider enacting law to protect medical professionals from violence: Health Minister to states

Medical and health services paralysed in Bihar

Doctors strike has paralysed medical and health services in Bihar, where an intense heat wave has claimed 61 lives in the past few days while nearly 100 children, have died of suspected acute encephalitis syndrome (AES). The country-wide strike, called by Indian Medical Association in protest against the recent assault on junior doctors at a hospital in West Bengal, has received support from Bihar State Health Services Association.

Long queues of hapless patients were seen at PMCH in Patna, the largest hospital in the state, as services at OPDs remained completely suspended, though hospital sources said that emergency services have not been allowed to be affected.

Moreover, PMCH Superintendent Rajeev Ranjan said, We have given clear indications that no serious patient should suffer on account of the strike. The doctors are in a government job and they may face stern action if their boycott of work leads to any casualty or any serious patient being refused admission.

OPD services are also paralysed at the SKMCH hospital in Muzaffarpur, where 290 children afflicted with AES have been admitted since June 1, out of whom 80 have died so far. The hospitals superintendent Sunil Shahi, however, said, The strike will not have any adverse impact on AES patients since they are admitted to either pediatrics or emergency wards and it had been resolved that the boycott of work by doctors will not affect the functioning of these facilities.”

State government officials had said that majority of the victims had died due to hypoglycemia, a condition caused by very low level of blood sugar and electrolyte imbalance. The strike has evoked similar response in Jehanabad, Bhojpur, Begusarai, Nawada and Supaul districts. Private hospitals and nursing homes have been similarly affected by the strike.

OPD services hit in Gujarat

Non-essential health services were affected in Gujarat as nearly 28,000 doctors boycotted work in response to their apex body IMA’s strike call, an official said.

Junior doctors and interns held protests in Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Jamnagar and other major towns of the state and did not report to work in the Out-Patient Departments (OPDs) of various government and private hospitals, he said. Around 28,000 doctors across the state, including 9,000 in Ahmedabad, have joined the 24-hour strike, an official from IMA’s Gujarat chapter said.

While the OPD services in all major government-run hospitals were hit to some extent, the emergency and indoor medical services were not affected, another official said. Some hospitals made arrangements to not let patients suffer due to the strike, said an official at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, which is the biggest state-run medical facility in Gujarat.

“No patient has been turned back at the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad. Though junior doctors are on strike, all the senior doctors are on duty and taking care of patients, the hospital’s superintendent M M Prabhakar said. “Around 4,000 OPD patients have already been attended since morning. Resident Doctors are also on duty in the emergency wards and also attending to indoor patients,” he said.

Meanwhile, junior doctors and medical students staged protests outside all the major government-run hospitals in the state, demanding a strict law to prevent attacks on doctors by family members of patients. “We demand a strict law to punish those who attack doctors. What happened in West Bengal is not new. It’s been happening since long,” said Shravan Dave, a junior doctor from Rajkot. “We want the government to formulate a central law to make such offences non-bailable with a sentence of at least seven years’ imprisonment. Doctors must get protection from all kinds of violence,” he added.

Medical services in Karnataka hit

Hundreds of private hospitals, nursing homes and clinics in Karnataka suspended outpatient services following the strike call by IMA. The strike had a telling effect as people were seen struggling to get medical aid in private hospitals.

However, the government hospitals remained open as usual following a circular by the Commissioner of Health and Family Welfare. Health department sources said there was heavy rush at government hospitals since morning.

The IMA did not heed to state Health Minister S S Patil’s appeal to keep the strike symbolic and not cause much trouble to people.“Almost all private hospitals and clinics have shut their OPD services. Emergency and pregnancy cases were taken up,” Karnataka IMA president N Dhanpal told PTI. Prominent hospitals in Bengaluru which joined the strike were Apollo Hospitals, St John’s Hospital, Narayana Hrudayalaya and Sagar Hospital, Dhanpal added.

Suresh Shastry, joint director, Health and Family Welfare Department, said the strike had no effect on government hospitals.

40,000 doctors boycott work in Maharashtra

More than 40,000 doctors in Maharashtra are boycotting work as part of the IMA strike call. Doctors, from various government and private hospitals in the state, are mainly boycotting the OPD (Out-Patient Department) and other non-essential health services, he said.

“Over 40,000 doctors and other medical practitioners in Maharashtra have decided to support their colleagues in West Bengal who are protesting against their Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,” an IMA official here said. However, the emergency services will not be affected and those already hospitalised will continue to get all the necessary medication and attention, he said. “The OPD services have been suspended at various hospitals in support of the strike call,” IMA Maharashtra’s honorary secretary Dr Suhas Pingale told PTI.

Doctors in Telangana boycott work

Doctors boycotted elective medical services in government and private hospitals, staged protests and took out rallies across Telangana. The protest by Telangana doctors is in solidarity with their Bengal counterparts and in support of the 24-hour strike call given the Indian Medical Association.

The doctors staged sit-ins, took out rallies near hospitals in Hyderabad and other parts of the state, hitting medicare services.

Holding placards that read “SAVE DOCTORS” and “Zero Tolerance To Healthcare Violence”, they raised slogans for special protection law and sought security to prevent more attacks. They demanded that a commission be set up to probe the attacks on doctors.

In Telangana too, doctors have been attacked for alleged medical negligence in the past. A health department official said emergency services were unaffected due to the protest. Reports said attendants and relatives of some patients expressed their ire over disruption in medical services due to the one-day protest.

Their problem was compounded as members of Telangana Junior Doctors Association (TJUDA) too abstained from elective duties in government hospitals and colleges Monday against the state government’s decision to increase the age of retirement of professors in medical colleges from 58 to 65.

Junior doctors, under the banner of TJUDA, staged protests across Telangana. “We are protesting by boycotting elective duties,” TJUDA chairman P S Vijayender told PTI.

Published on June 17, 2019
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