Govandi resident Raghunath Bhalerao spent seven anxious hours at St George Hospital near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus on Monday, waiting to collect his uncle Dattu Bhalerao’s body.
“Uncle was found dead on a footpath. The police bought his body to St George at 8.30 am but there was no doctor to conduct the post-mortem,” he said.
Bhalerao was among the several people inconvenienced on Monday as 400-odd doctors, who work at 14 state-run medical colleges, went on a mass casual leave. Sixty-three doctors who work at four government hospitals in Mumbai were among them.
The doctors are protesting the health ministry’s decision to send them to work in rural areas to fill vacant posts in primary health centres and rural hospitals. They have threatened to go on an indefinite strike from Tuesday evening if the decision is not revoked.
Health Minister Suresh Shetty has proposed to abolish posts of 450 doctors, including superintendents and resident medical officers, who handle administrative work at medical colleges, and send them to rural areas instead. About 2,700
of the 7,218 posts for medical officers at rural health facilities are vacant.
“Shifting 450 doctors will not solve the problem of 2,700 vacancies,” said Dr Ulhas Vasave, one of the protesting doctors.
JJ Dean Dr T.P. Lahane said they somehow managed on Monday. “Lecturers took charge as casualty medical officers in all the four hospitals and post-mortems were conducted by JJ’s forensic medicine department.”
The post-mortem centres at St George and GT Hospital were closed for most of the day.
Bhalerao met government officials with his grievances. “Patients and relatives are suffering because doctors are on leave. The government should solve the matter quickly.”
No truce was in sight till Monday night. “Let the doctors go on strike if they want to. They have to comply with the decision,” said Shetty.