New Delhi, June 14 (IANS) As the crisis in the healthcare services deepened because of the doctors’ strike in West Bengal and a number of other states, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Friday also called for a nationwide strike on June 17, while demanding safe working conditions for doctors.
The IMA also launched a three-day pan-India protest, beginning Friday to express solidarity with the junior doctors agitating against the assault of their colleague in Kolkata.
“All non-essential services including OPD will be withdrawn for 24 hours starting 6 a.m. on Monday. The emergency and casualty services, however, will continue to function,” R.V. Asokan, Secretary General of IMA told IANS.
He added that this time, the striking members will not go home till the Central government gives them an assurance that concrete measures for the safety and security of the doctors would be in place in the hospitals.
“We are demanding concrete measures such as hospitals be declared as safe zones and CCTVs be installed in the hospital premises. Since the safety measures are not covered under the Indian Penal Code, we want the government to get a bill passed in Parliament, for a uniform security code in the hospitals across the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan wrote to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Banerjee, urging her to ensure an amicable end to the agitation and provide a secure working environment to the doctors in the state, which is the epicentre of the stir that is spreading across the country.
He stated that the ongoing strike had adversely impacted healthcare services and was causing severe hardships to the patients across the country.
Earlier in the day, doctors of several hospitals, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, went on a ‘token strike’ in solidarity with the striking doctors in West Bengal protesting the assault on their colleague.
AIIMS Resident Doctors Association (RDA) President Vijay Gurjar said: “We will take a call on continuing the strike in our general body meeting to be held at 9 p.m. since our colleagues are still on strike in West Bengal.”
The striking doctors demanded immediate security intervention of the Centre and adoption of a uniform security code for all government hospitals across the country.
“We are in solidarity with the doctors of West Bengal. We demand central security and law for resident doctors. In this regard we met Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and submitted a memorandum”, Gurjar said.
The doctors complained that the incident of violence against one of their colleagues in West Bengal wasn’t a stray incident and has become a trend across the country.
“Violence against the doctors in Kolkata is not a single case and is a trend that has affected other parts of the country as well, including Delhi. While it is convenient to blame the doctors for a death, the rapid spread of show of solidarity in Goa as well as Maharashtra indicates a deep-rooted problem,” said H.S. Chhabra, Medical director and Chief of Spine at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC).
“We must keep in mind the extreme conditions in which the doctors work, especially in government hospitals – right from overcrowded OPDs to inadequate staff, medicines and infrastructure, doctors are fighting an unequal battle. The doctor-patient ratio in India is abysmally low and the serious physical, mental and emotional stress they undergo takes tremendous effort,” Chhabra added.
“The working environment of doctors should be free of fear and intimidation so that they can put in their best efforts, and in the current scenario, providing them with safety and security is the least the government can do,” he said.
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) RDA vice president Jawahar Singh said the Health Minister has assured the striking doctors that he would personally talk to the West Bengal Chief Minister.
Besides, he would also be speaking to the Chief Ministers of all states on the security of doctors, the Union Minister added.
The strike by senior and junior resident doctors has badly affected health services in the hospitals.
Gurjar also said that the AIIMS faculty members were working with helmets donned.
They also demanded recruitment of both armed and unarmed trained security guards in all government hospitals, besides increasing the number of security staff to at least thrice the existing numbers.
Meanwhile, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital (RML), Lady Hardinge Medical College and other Delhi government hospitals, including those run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) would be observing a token strike on Saturday.
The RML Resident Doctors Association President Sumedha said: “We have intimated the Union Health Minister about our strike for tomorrow (Saturday)”.
He said emergency services would not be affected during the strike, critical care services would be open and doctors would be attending, but Out-Patient (OPD) services would remain shut.
He said the demand of the doctors include deployment of Central paramilitary forces for the protection of doctors, legislating a Central Doctor Protection Act and that doctors across hospitals in country be provided with separate security.
According to a Sir Ganga Ram Hospital statement: “All doctors of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital are fully in support of our colleagues in West Bengal and strongly protest against the growing tendency of violence against doctors. As a support of our solidarity, all private OPD clinics at the hospital will remain closed today (Friday)”.
Several resident doctors also held a protest at Jantar Mantar against the brutal attack on a Kolkata intern, following the death of a 75-year-old patient late on Monday.
The Indian Medical Association has also asked members of all its state branches to stage protests and wear black badges on Friday.