Doctors’ strike continues to test patients in Maharashtra
367 OPD patients were treated at KEM on Wednesday, down from 7,000 on a normal day, while OPDs and Nair and Sion hospitals were shut for most of the daymumbai Updated: Mar 23, 2017 00:37 IST
Services at major civic-run hospitals were hampered for the third consecutive day on Wednesday as resident doctors continued their ‘mass leave’ protest, with over 2,000 striking work.
“Since Monday services at medical colleges have been hampered and we expect this to continue for next few days. All minor surgeries are being postponed and senior doctors will attend to emergency cases amidst the absence of resident doctors,” said Idez Kundan, additional municipal commissioner, BMC.
Kundan added that the civic body was now focusing on how to tackle the issue of doctors remaining absent. “We will have to call for medical officers to do routine work,” he said.
Varsha Khatri, 67, from Mulund was diagnosed with urinary tract infection four days ago and admitted to BYL Nair Hospital. She said that no doctor has been there since Saturday, when she was operated on. “My health has not improved and I have had a fever for the past two days,” said Khatri, whom HT saw outside the ward, looking for help.
Sources at Sion hospital confirmed that just 21 medico-legal cases were registered at the casualty ward on Wednesday. These include accident cases, patient transfers, stabbings, poisonings and other legal cases that involve medical emergencies. The hospital usually registers about 45-45 such cases on a normal day.
“Over 40 patients have been transferred to Sion hospital since morning. The problem is that cases termed minor could turn into major ones if not attended to,” said a source. Lallooram Gupta, 48, who has severe stomach pain, wait for more than an in the hospital’s casualty ward but to not avail. “After waiting for an hour my father was asked to visit a private facility. We will move him to a private hospital in Andheri,” said his son Anil.
At KEM Hospital, Parel, where 7,000 patients are treated just in the outpatient department (OPD) each day, only 367 OPD patients were treated on Wednesday. In the absence of resident doctors, heads of departments, assistant professors, lecturers and interns stepped forward. “We are screening patients and treating only those who need immediate attention,” said an intern at the hospital’s casualty ward.
At Nair and Sion hospitals, the OPDs remained closed for most of the day. “On average we see around 2,500 patients in the OPD. However, today doctors treated just 300 patents. Only 11 elective surgeries conducted, far fewer that the 35 we see on a normal day,” said a hospital employee.
Many security guards at hospitals said they were doing their best to help patients by giving them timely information and pointing them in the right direction. “Most patients are unaware about the strike and have to be told why medical services are not available. We are helping them as much we can by directing them to senior doctors,” said a security guard at Nair hospital.
Santosh Bhosle, a 48-year-old Khar resident who has chest pain, said he almost returned home without being treated. “I asked a watchman about the situation and he directed me to a place where someone attended to me in less than two minutes,” he said. “The other staffers were just sending me to different departments in the two buildings.”
‘Budget cuts, not docs, leading to poor care’
Cuts to the state’s health budget could be one of the reasons for the rise in the number of attacks against resident doctors, health activists said.
The proposed health budget for the year 2017-2018 — Rs12,167 crore — is Rs569 crore less than the year before. This translates to poorer services, staff crunch and shortage of medicines at hospitals.
Dr Abhay Shukla from the Jan Swasthiya Abhiyan said the assaults is largely because of an inefficient healthcare system. “The problem is not because of doctors or patients. It is because of issues such shortage of staff at hospitals, shortage of medicines and a drop in resources.”
“If the state is going to cut health budgets, it will only create a further divide between doctors and hospitals.”
A nurse from the civic body’s nurses association said patients or their relatives are often forced to wait in long queues for X-Rays, scans and medicines, which only adds to their tension. “Unfortunately, it is the doctors who end up facing the aggression, but these things are beyond the control of the doctors,” she said.
Resident doctors are just one part of the hospital establishment and can’t be held responsible for disruption in patient services, according to Dr Sagar Mundada, president of the Indian Medical Association’s youth wing. “Resident doctors are postgraduate students who are at the hospital to learn. If they feel insecure and are met with anger, how does one expect them to deliver quality care?”
Dr Shukla added that a decentralisation of healthcare services, more grievance redressal cells and better healthcare budgets will ensure patients and their relatives don’t get as agitated.