The deadlock between striking doctors and the government continued on Thursday, making it the third consecutive day of an indefinite strike.
This has put additional pressure on senior doctors in state-run hospitals, who had to deal with emergency cases, as the state refused to give in to the doctors’ demands.
Resident doctors have refrained from joining duty and are demanding a pay hike of more than 130 per cent to put their salaries at par with doctors working in central government hospitals across India.
They are also demanding better living conditions, security in hospitals, medical insurance and sick leaves.
“They make us work for 24 hours instead of eight. We get life-threatening ailments but are not covered by insurance,” said Dr Anil Dudbhate, general secretary, Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD).
MARD, a 4,500-strong body of resident doctors, called the strike on Tuesday evening. About 3,500 interns joined the strike by Wednesday.
On Thursday, a delegation of striking doctors met state Health Minister Rajendra Shingne, Finance Minister Dilip Valse-Patil and Mantralaya officials.
“We will talk when doctors return to work. The demands are unfair; there is no question of parity with salaries offered in Central hospitals. Pay scale of these doctors was hiked two years ago,” said Bhushan Gagrani, secretary, medical education.
Officials said as a last resort, they would use the Essential Services Maintenance Act to force doctors back on duty.
Meanwhile, to ease pressure on the senior doctors, striking resident doctors have decided to run parallel outpatients department (OPD) services.
“We realise that maximum patients come during monsoon season and so we would set up tent-like structures outside hospital campus to treat patients,” said Dr Dudbhate. He said around 125 doctors would be present in the camp near KEM Hospital.
At KEM Hospital, Thane resident Sumandra Atharve could not hold back tears when she was asked to take her ailing son Hrithik (8) home.
“My son has a blood disorder, he needs red blood platelets. He was being treated here for past 15 days but we have been asked to go home midway through treatment owing to the strike,” said Atharve.
Kandivli resident Pradip More said his mother Laxmi (70), who had suffered a partial paralysis attack, was discharged despite the treatment not being completed.
At JJ Hospital, Sai Nath, resident of Masjid Bunder, repeatedly requested authorities to allow his nephew Vijay Kumar Saroj to finish the treatment.
“After admission, we were told that he needed saline and blood components for a couple of days. But today we were asked to leave. There is no doctor to examine him,” he said.
Kiran Singh, wife of Tej Bahadur (50) who was admitted last week after he suffered a partial paralytic stroke, was begging the doctors to continue his treatment. “I cannot even take him to another hospital as I am told strike is on everywhere. We cannot afford treatment in a private hospital,” said Kiran.
The situation at OPDs was no better.
“Against 10,000 patients treated daily in peripheral hospitals, we treated only 6,026,” said Dr Seema Mallik, chief medical superintendent of peripheral hospitals.
At KEM Hospital, only 366 patients were treated and 57 surgeries conducted against a daily patient turnover of 5,500, said Dr Pravin Bangar, senior administrative medical officer.