Health services were hit severely at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh on Tuesday as most of the 1,200 resident doctors remained on strike till afternoon.
These doctors, who went on mass leave to seek stringent action against an operation theatre technician who allegedly manhandled a resident doctor on Thursday, rejoined work only after the PGI administration suspended the accused technician, Gurpreet Sethi.
Sethi, accused of assault by Dr Ajay Mishra, a senior resident from the department of anesthesia, was transferred to tetanus department on Monday, but the doctors had sought more stringent action.
The strike by doctors had an impact on working of outpatient departments (OPD), surgeries and ward care. However, as the association of resident doctors had promised, emergency and intensive care unit (ICU) services remained normal since nearly 500 doctors on duty in these departments were not part of the strike.
But OPD took the hardest hit. On a normal day, more than 5,000 patients are examined in various OPDs of the PGI; but Tuesday saw only 2,633 patients being examined. In fact, the impact of the strike was such that the administration put up posters in the New OPD Block in the morning, saying that registration cards would be made only till 9am, and not till the usual 11am.
Hence, patients and their attendants, especially those who had travelled long distances hoping for treatment at the region's premier hospital, had a tough time. By the time they reached the PGI, the OPD registration counters were closed.
Similar was the situation in the operation theatres as a large number of surgeries scheduled for Tuesday were postponed. One of the victims was Surinder Khanna, a patient from Malout, over 250km from Chandigarh, whose surgery had not been carried out as the doctors were not available. "We were called for the hip-replacement surgery at 7am, but it's 2pm and nothing has been done so far," said Aashu Khanna, his son.
Technicians talk peace, for now
Even as the PGI administration succumbed to pressure by resident doctors and suspended technician Gurpreet Sethi, who allegedly manhandled a resident doctor, the Operation Theatre Technical Staff Association ruled out any counter-strike.
"Sethi has been suspended on the basis of some old complaints. It is has nothing to do with the ongoing row," said Jagjeet Singh, president of the association after its general body meeting. "So we will wait till the entire investigation concludes. There will be not agitation or protest till then."
However, according to a press release issued by the PGI, a committee was constituted by the administration under the chairmanship of Dr YK Batra on Saturday to ascertain facts about the alleged assault of a doctor by Sethi. The report was submitted at 7pm on Monday, and on its basis, Sethi was placed under suspension.
After their general body meeting, Association of Resident Doctors treasurer Paramvir Singh Mangat, said, "The PGI administration acted in the interest of patients, and we welcome the decision. The strike has been called off in patient interest," he said.