Seven children allegedly died due to lack of medical attention at a government-run hospital in Hyderabad after doctors continued their flash strike on Monday with demanding suspension of a legislator for attacking them.
Doctors of the Niloufer Children's Hospital continued their sit-in at Nampally main road in the heart of the city despite the government assuring them of a probe into the incident and proper security arrangements at the hospital.
The parents of the dead children alleged that they died due to lack of medical care. The condition of several other children is critical.
However, Hyderabad district collector Chandravadan denied that any child died due to lack of medical aid. "Many children are brought to the hospital in serious condition and they may have died," he said.
Senior doctors from other hospitals are being called to attend to patients at Niloufer, he said.
The scene at the hospital was heart-rending with mothers of the dead children wailing over the bodies. The angry parents of the seriously ill kids clashed with security personnel and staff members of the hospital. They even tried to gherao the hospital superintendent. Those who could afford treatment in private hospitals hurriedly moved their wards away.
More than 250 junior doctors of the hospital, joined by counterparts from other government-run hospitals in the city, spent the night on the road demanding that police file an attempt to murder case against Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) legislator Afsar Khan.
They were marching to the assembly building to demand the legislator's suspension when the police stopped them. The nightlong sit-in by the protesters at Nampally main road threw traffic out of gear.
According to the doctors, the trouble began on Sunday when Junaid Khan, a MIM activist, admitted his one-year-old daughter who was suffering from respiratory problems. Angry over the alleged delay in treatment to the baby, Junaid and his relatives reportedly created a ruckus. Police arrested Junaid on a complaint by the doctors.
Afsar Khan, on learning about the detention of Junaid, went to the hospital and asked the doctors to withdraw the case. When the doctors refused, he and his supporters started abusing them and reportedly manhandled them.
The legislator and one of his supporters were arrested late Sunday night but later released on bail. Afsar Khan was also involved in the attack on Bangladeshi author Tasleema Nasreen at a function here in August.
The legislator, who was booked for assault, criminal intimidation and insulting the modesty of women, denied that he and his supporters attacked any doctor. He said they were only trying to persuade them to withdraw a case against the MIM worker.
Minister for Medical Services Galla Aruna Kumari and Minister for Labour Mukesh Goud held three rounds of talks with the protesting doctors to urge them to call off their strike, but they remained adamant.
The doctors are demanding that a case of attempt to murder be booked against Afsar Khan and he should be suspended from the assembly. They want assembly speaker K.R. Suresh Reddy to meet them so that they can place their demand before him.
"We will not attend to duties till the MIM MLA is booked for attempt to murder and round-the-clock security is provided in the hospital," Junior Doctors Association state president G. Raju said.
Junior doctors at the government-run MGM hospital in Warangal have boycotted medical services to express solidarity with the Niloufer medics.
The junior doctors' association has threatened to turn it into a statewide agitation if the legislator is not suspended.
Terming the incident as "unfortunate", Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy has said the law would take its own course against those involved in the attack on doctors. He also held a high-level meeting to review the medical services at Niloufer and other hospitals.