Relatives of seriously ill patients pounded the doors of the emergency wards in desperation and others crowded the lawns of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Thursday as doctors observed a 24-hour strike to denounce the summary sacking of the institute's director.
Besides AIIMS, one of the leading hospitals in the capital, the Maulana Azad Medical college hospital and the University College of Medical Sciences also shut outpatient departments to protest Wednesday's humiliating dismissal of AIIMS director P Venugopal on the order of Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.
The police were called in to remove the crowding patients at AIIMS, where angry doctors, faculty staff and even other employees vowed to keep the outpatient and emergency services closed till Thursday evening.
A seriously ill patient died at AIIMS on Wednesday after the resident doctors went on strike without any notice.
"We are investigating the matter," said Sunil Chumber, an AIIMS official.
The AIIMS faculty will hold a general body meeting in the evening to decide the future course of action, a hospital source said.
Venugopal has declined to comment on his sacking by the AIIMS governing body, which administers the supposedly autonomous institution.
However, faculty sources close to the renowned heart specialist said he might move court in a day or two.
"This is too much of political interference in the functioning of AIIMS. The sacking of the AIIMS director is shocking and the Cabinet should reject the resolution and reinstate the director," said Sanjiv Mallik, president of the Indian Medical Association.
The governing body took the sack decision after a three-hour meeting chaired by the Health Minister, who is president of AIIMS, on charges of "violating the code of conduct".
The governing body resolution will be referred to the Cabinet, which has the power to either accept or reject it.
Venugopal had a public spat with Ramadoss last month after AIIMS emerged as the epicentre of protests against the Government decision to hike caste-based quotas for admission to institutes of higher education.
While Ramadoss alleged that "some people" had turned the country's leading medical institute into a "political hub" and warned of action against them, the sacked AIIMS chief accused the minister of curtailing its autonomy.