An association of municipal doctors urged Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday to bail out the cash-strapped Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and remove health service from its jurisdiction as a staff strike entered its sixth day.
Health services have been crippled at six hospitals and dispensaries run by the north and east municipal corporation as its employyes, including doctors and nurses, have been protesting non-payment of salaries.
“It is not in our humanitarian nature to make people suffer by resorting to agitation and strike, and it is deeply regretted that we have been forced into this situation... It is also requested that in the view of the precarious financial situation of the MCD, health services (except public health) may be taken away from the MCD, and taken over by the Delhi government or the central government as a permanent solution of our problems,” the letter read.
Around 2,000 consulting doctors, 5,000 resident doctors and 13,000 nurses have refused to work since January 30, leading to empty hospital wards and deserted out-patient departments at the MCD-run hospitals.
The strike is likely to affect over 20,000 people who go to the out-patient departments and the average daily admission of around 2,000 patients at Hindu Rao Hospital, Rajan Babu Tuberculosis Hospital, Kasturba Gandhi Hospital, Girdhari Lal Hospital, Infectious Diseases Hospital and Swami Dayanand Hospital – the six hospitals that are run by the North and the East municipal corporation. This will now increase pressure on nearby Delhi government hospitals.
Though salaries for November were released on Tuesday as matters began to get worse, doctors refused to budge until a lasting solution was finalised. “For the past one year, we have had to keep going on strike every few months to get paid. This time we will call off the strike only after MCD finds a permanent solution or gives the health services to the Delhi government,” said Dr R R Gautam, president of the municipal corporation doctors’ association.
At the Hindu Rao hospital in north Delhi, just a handful of patients were seen, down from the average 500-700 patients on most days. No new admissions have taken place since the strike began. “Only one doctor is working in the emergency department to treat critical patients and refer them to other hospitals once they are stable. The patients who had been admitted before the strike have also been stabilised and referred to Delhi government hospitals,” said Dr Aditya Gupta, president of the resident doctors’ association at Hindu Rao hospital.
At Swami Dayanand hospital, where doctors have not been paid for four months, even the emergency wing was non-functional.
“All the doctors and staff of the hospital are protesting on the streets. No services, not even emergency services, are running in our hospital. We are referring all patients to Guru Teg Bahadur hospital,” said Dr Asish Jain, president of the resident doctors’ association at Swami Dayanand hospital.