Medical services hit as 20,000 doctors strike work to protest against NMC Bill
Most government hospitals in Delhi have had to scale back on their routine clinics and cancel the scheduled surgeries on Thursday with nearly 20,000 resident doctors and medical students striking work to protest against the National Medical Commission (NMC) bill.
Even the emergency services were affected as residents withdrew from all services at 8am in the morning.
More than 50,000 people are treated every day in the out-patient clinics of hospitals run by government (both state and central) in Delhi. Around 40% of these patients travel from neighbouring states for treatment.
Even as the NMC bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha with some amendments, the doctors are unhappy and will likely continue the strike tomorrow. “The strike will very likely continue tomorrow as none of the concerns of the resident doctors or medical students was addressed today. The three main concerns for us were the National Exit Test (NEXT), unqualified people being allowed to practice medicine, and capping of fees for only 50% of the medical seats in private colleges. The amendments do not take care of this,” said Dr Sunil Arora, general secretary, Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA).
The doctors also took to streets, sloganeering on Sri Aurobindo Marg outside AIIMS in the morning and outside the Parliament in the evening, as the bill was being presented in the Rajya Sabha. Around 40 doctors, including the office bearers of Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) and AIIMS resident doctors’ association, were detained from outside the Parliament.
At All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), patients without appointment were sent back from the Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur OPD block.
Pooran Prasad Singh, 72, had travelled for seven hours in a bus from Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, to AIIMS for a neurology consultation. He had suffered a massive brain stroke in 2011 and has to come once a month for a consultation and medicines.
“It was very unfortunate that we decided to come to the hospital today; the doctors are on strike. The one-way fare for the bus ride comes up to R 350 for me and my daughter. Now I will have to come back again on Tuesday,” he said.
Across the road, in Safdarjung hospital, the registration counters were opened a couple of hours late to control the number of people in the out-patient clinics. “The counter was opened only at 10am today instead of 8. Most of the patients who had come in the morning left. Those remaining were treated by senior faculty members,” said a data entry operator at the registration counter, on condition of anonymity.
At the biggest Delhi government-run hospital, Lok Nayak, the out-patient clinics had a deserted look.
Noor-uz Zaman, 68, has been undergoing treatment for chronic kidney disease at Lok Nayak hospital for a couple of years now. He travelled from Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, only to reach Delhi and realise that the doctors were on strike.
“This is the second time this has happened to me. I had come for a checkup in June too when there was a strike because a doctor in Kolkata had been beaten up. I missed two consultations because I was supposed to come the next day but thought that it was scheduled for next week. And, now again this,” he said.
“The OPD services at the hospital were severely affected. All the routine surgeries had to be cancelled and even in the emergency department we were taking in only those who were extremely critical,” said Dr Kishore Singh, medical director, Lok Nayak hospital.
The hospital performs about 60 routine surgeries a day. The non-emergency surgeries were cancelled in AIIMS and Safdarjung too, which together rperform about 160 major surgeries a day.
The emergency services at both hospitals were affected too. “We are not taking in any new patients today. Only those with heavy bleeding or in critical condition are being taken in,” said a guard on duty at the entrance to the New Emergency Block at Safdarjung hospital.