More than 700 resident doctors at KEM hospital, Parel in Mumbai went on a strike on Friday, after relatives of a three-and-a-half-year-old child, who died of dengue in the morning, assaulted three doctors.
Govandi resident Abu Sufiyan was brought to the hospital on Thursday night with dengue shock syndrome. His pulse and blood pressure were too minute to be recorded and the relatives were told the child’s condition was critical. They also signed the high-risk consent form. But Abu had to be admitted to the general ward, as the paediatric ICU ward was full.
The family alleged the child’s condition worsened after he was administered an injection around 4am. “After they [doctors] gave the injection, his body started to become cold. We called doctors and nurses, but no one paid heed. By the time they came, it was too late,” said Abu’s mother Salma Begum, 30.
Refuting the claims, Dr Sagar Mundada, president, Central Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), said, “The treatment was started immediately. The relatives were updated on the condition of the child periodically. The angry relatives assaulted three doctors with iron stools and batons snatched from women security personnel.”
This is the fourth dengue death in Mumbai this year. The city has recorded 469 cases of dengue till September 21 this year, forcing the civic body to issue notices to film studios and hospitals to check the mosquito-breeding sites on their premises. The state also plans to add it to the list of notifiable diseases, which will make reporting such cases compulsory and give authorities the power to take steps to prevent its outbreak.
Dr Suhas Chaudhary, 26, and Dr Puneet Garg, 25, both postgraduate residents of the paediatric department, suffered head and back injuries, and had to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) of the surgery department. Another resident doctor, Dr Kushal Sharnagat, 26, who suffered injuries to his left hand, was discharged after treatment.
After the assault, resident doctors announced a strike. MARD said the strike will be indefinite unless their demand for more security at the three civic hospitals – KEM, Cooper and Sion -- is met and the assaulters are arrested.
Vinod Tawde, minister for medical education, reached the hospital and instructed the deans of KEM and Sir JJ Hospital, Byculla, to ensure an FIR was registered against the assaulters. Merajuddin Qureshi, 32, the child’s father, and Junaid Qureshi, 26, his uncle, were taken into police custody.
Medical services at the hospital remained largely unaffected. “All emergency surgeries were conducted according to the schedule. Resident doctors in the super-specialty department reported to work. The patient turnout was lower, as it was a state holiday,” said Dr Avinash Supe, dean, KEM Hospital.
Currently, there are 168 sanctioned posts for security personnel for the three hospitals, of which 27 are vacant. In July, the directorate of medical education (DMER) had sought a security audit report from the hospitals, which revealed it needs 211 more personnel. Following Friday’s incident, the administration has deployed 12 bouncers at the KEM hospital on a priority basis.
Doctors at public hospitals said the large number of patients makes it difficult for them to pay attention to every case. “The larger problem is the highly skewed doctor-patient ratio in the country. According to the Centre’s recently released national health profile, the current patient-doctor ratio is 11,450 to 1, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a ratio of 1,000 to one. Even if we wish to, we cannot pay much attention to each patient,” said Dr Mundada.
“Security deployment is a short-term measure. The problem has become huge. It is also a matter of communication between doctors and their patients. We have been trying to address the issue on various levels by taking measures such as holding workshops for our students,” said Dr Supe.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) and Association of Medical Consultants, too, have supported MARD’s demand for increased security. “Acts of violence against doctors are unfortunate. It’s a systemic problem which needs policy-level intervention,” said Dr Suhas Pingle, executive member, IMA, who met MARD members, who are on strike at KEM Hospital.