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Senior docs' strike cripples Delhi's medical services

Medical services in Delhi were crippled as senior doctors from 5 medical colleges and some pvt clinics joined the anti-quota protests.

india Updated: May 25, 2006 15:50 IST

Medical services in the capital were crippled on Thursday as senior doctors from five medical colleges and some private clinics joined the anti-quota protests, making patients suffer for the 14th day.

Responding to a call by protesting resident doctors and the Delhi Medical Association to observe "civil disobedience" by staying away from work for a day, over 400 doctors of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) went on daylong casual leave.

The resident doctors, students and interns of five medical colleges in Delhi have been on strike since May 12 to protest a government proposal to reserve 27 percent seats for other backward classes in higher education institutions.

At AIIMS, the resident doctors and students of Delhi University (DU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Indian Institute Technology (Delhi) are still sitting on hunger strike, holding posters denouncing Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Though the number of protesters has dwindled, resident doctors say they are determined to continue their agitation as support is coming in from all quarters.

"We are getting support from medical faculties, lawyers, resident welfare associations, parents and even the trading community. In the wake of the government's decision to implement 27 per cent reservation from June 2007, we will continue our protest," said Binod Patra, president of the AIIMS resident doctors association.

The resident doctors have discontinued operating parallel OPDs to intensify the stir and the mass casual leave by senior doctors has affected OPD and emergency services.

"Resident doctors are our backbone and their absence from work has really crippled medical services over the last two weeks," AIIMS Faculty Association general secretary KK Handa said.

"Expressing solidarity with the students and resentment against the government decision, around 90 per cent of our faculty is on casual leave for a day," Handa added.

Senior doctors also said that the attempt to hold walk-in interviews for replacements of the medicos at several hospitals in Delhi on Wednesday was a complete failure and a similar move in AIIMS May 29 would also fizzle out.

"So far it has been a complete failure, let's see what happens on May 29. We are with students," said a doctor requesting anonymity.

Amid anti-quota sloganeering and a display of placards, several doctors of private hospitals also addressed the protestors and extended their support.

"I have closed my clinic for a day to express solidarity with students," said SK Mahajan, the owner of a dental clinic in southwest Delhi.

Amid all these protests, it's the underprivileged patients who have been facing the maximum problems.

"My husband is suffering from cancer and no one is listening to me here. At Safdarjung Hospital, the authorities told me to go to AIIMS but there too the doctors are on leave," said Lata Barooah, who came from Guwahati in Assam.

"I was hoping to avail of the best medical care in AIIMS but am disappointed. When doctors are not listening to patients, how can I have faith in any system," Lata asked.

Rajesh Singh from Bihar said: "I came to Safdarjung last evening but no one is here to take care of the out patients. My relatives had suggested that I bring my 11-year-old son who is suffering from pneumonia to Delhi, but now I regret the decision."

"I don't know when the doctors will admit my son," he said.

Meanwhile, the traders community in Delhi has expressed solidarity with the protesting medicos. In some major markets of Delhi like Connaught Place and Karol Bagh, they downed shutters till 1 pm.

"We express our deep feelings for the medicos and appeal to the government to come out with some solution keeping in mind the students' demand. Some of our traders shut their markets in the first half and we are taking out a candlelight march near Connaught Place this evening," said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).