Doctors’ strike continues in Delhi but some big hospitals resume work
Outpatient clinics operated partially and emergency services resumed in most government hospitals in Delhi as a strike by thousands of resident doctors and medical students against the National Medical Commission (NMC) bill entered into its third day on Saturday .
Resident doctors from a few big hospitals, like Lok Nayak and Lady Hardinge Medical College, returned to work on Saturday morning after meeting with Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan a day earlier.
Till 9.30pm on Saturday, the junior doctors’ associations were undecided on whether to continue the strike on Sunday, when OPD clinics are shut anyway.
Around 20,000 resident doctors and medical students from all government hospitals had gone on a strike on Thursday, when the bill was tabled and passed in the Rajya Sabha.
While hospitals resumed emergency services, hundreds of junior doctors, led by those from AIIMS and Safdarjung, intensified their protest on Saturday taking to the streets and blocking the Ring Road.
Among the many who bore the brunt of the strike was Sunil Pandit, who had travelled all the way from Siwan district in Bihar to consult a doctor for his son’s intestinal ailment on Friday but failed to get an appointment. “I thought that I will stay back because he really needs to see the doctor. During our last visit, about 15 days ago, the doctor had told us that he will assess my son’s condition and let us know whether he needs a surgery. Going to Bihar and coming back later again is a big hassle,” he said.
“If I had known about the strike, I would not have come. I am losing out on my R 200 – 300 daily income as well,” he said, adding that he will have to wait till Monday now and hope that the strike is called off.
At hospitals, where the out-patient clinics had resumed operations, only a handful of patients turned up on Saturday.
“Saturday anyway sees less patients because it is a half day. But the news of the strike must have spread because we received only about one-third the number of patients we usually get. Services should return to normal by Monday unless our residents decide to go on a strike again. They have issued a notice asking for release of the minutes of the meeting with Union health minister . They have also threatned to intensify their protests if action is taken against striking doctors,” said Dr Kishore Singh, medical director, Lok Nayak hospital.
The AIIMS and Safdarjung administration, meanwhile, have issued notice asking residents to return to work or face consequences.
“The president of the RDA was informed about the code of conduct ... It has been observed that there was a violation. This has been viewed seriously by the competent authority. Accordingly all the members of the RDA / Students Union are hereby instructed to reply immediately as to why disciplinary action should not be taken against them. All the members...are hereby directed to resume their duties with immediate effect failing which... suspension/ termination of services, vacation of hostel accommodation may be taken,” said a memorandum from AIIMS administration.
The doctors said they were concerned that once the community health workers are given licenses, the government will not be able to ensure where they practice.
“While the present law enforcing agencies in the respective states fail to prevent quackery, given the judicial backlog in our country, how will the Central government ensure that the community health providers will restrict to limited practice only, health and law enforcement being essentially state subjects?” the letter said. The doctors also questioned the vague term “persons connected with the modern scientific medical profession.”
The second concern the doctors had was about the National Exit Test. The AIIMS resident doctors association is also concerned that this will take away the autonomy of designing their own curriculum from institutes like AIIMS, PGIMER which will have to align the courses according to NEXT.
The AIIMS faculty association was also urged to join the protest. “As the faculty association of AIIMS was not taking a stand, about 50 senior faculty members organised a meeting on Saturday afternoon and said that they will support the strike of the resident doctors. The official general body meeting of the FAAIIMS will happen on Monday,” said a faculty member from AIIMS, on condition of anonymity.