Two more children died at Niloufer Hospital, a top medical official said, taking the toll to 10 on Tuesday, the third day of a strike by junior doctors that spread to other cities of Andhra Pradesh.
Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy asked hospital authorities to shift ailing children
to private hospitals for emergency treatment as the situation worsened.
Some 250 doctors at the hospital have stayed away from work since Sunday in protest against an attack on them by a member of the legislative assembly and his supporters.
Members of several political parties, including the Telegu Desam Party, staged dharnas in protest against lack of facilities at the hospital and demanded the suspension of the superintendent. Supporters of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Party (MIM) MLAs Afsar Khan and Mauzham Khan ransacked the hospital and broke smashed the windowpanes.
Hospital superintendent Narasimha Rao said 10 children had died since Monday but their deaths had nothing to do with the agitation by doctors. “Since it’s a referral hospital, most cases that come here are very critical,” he said, adding that critical care services are unaffected.
Hospital sources put the number of deaths at 18 since the strike began on Sunday.
The doctors are protesting against an attack by MIM MLA Afsar Khan and his followers. Senior and junior doctors in other places in the state refused to work varying durations in support of fellow doctors.
The Andhra Pradesh Government Doctors’ Association, the largest body of medical professionals in the state, came out in support of the striking doctors on Tuesday and called for a token half-hour strike every day from 9 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. The association said after a meeting that it hoped the government would come out with an acceptable solution to the problem by Saturday, failing which the stir would be intensified.
The association demanded that the government issue an ordinance, making attacks on on-duty doctors or hospital staff, a non-bailable offence. The striking doctors want attempt to murder charges slapped against Khan and his dismissal from the Assembly.
Reddy denied he was backing Khan as his party is an ally of the ruling Congress. “If he has committed any offence, the law will take its own course,” he said. Reddy indicated that additional police would be deployed at the hospital. Mauzham Khan demanded that an inquiry into the deaths of the children be ordered and the doctors responsible for the deaths be suspended.
Later, Vijayashanti, a popular filmstar and president of the “Talli Telengana party” staged a dharna for sometime in front of the hospital demanding Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia to the family of the victims.