Striking junior doctors in Bengal turned down chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s invitation to their representatives for talks “behind closed doors” on Saturday, effectively dashing hopes of an immediate resolution to the five-day-long heathcare crisis in government hospitals.The junior doctors had struck work on Tuesday to protest the brutal assault on colleagues on the NRS Medical College and Hospital campus the night before following the death of an octogenarian patient. They have refused to resume work till security is provided in all government hospitals and turned a deaf ear to the chief minister’s threats to take action.Hard pressed to find a way out, Banerjee had invited four representatives of the protesters for talks at the state secretariat at 5 pm in the presence of five prominent doctors of the city. But the striking doctors snubbed the chief minister.“We doubt the objectivity and safety of talks with a handful of our representatives behind closed doors. We want the chief minister to come to NRS (Medical College and Hospital) and hold talks with all of us,” a statement issued by NRS doctors after a general body meeting said.Subsequently, Banerjee held a series of meetings with the junior health minister, chief secretary, health secretary and five veteran doctors. “We tried to break the impasse. We failed. We give up,” said Abhijit Chowdhury, one of the five doctors who met the CM.On Saturday, the health department issued a directive for revamping security at all state-run hospitals. Officials aware of developments said the department proposed to deploy private security agencies that will work in coordination with the police. The government will also install alarm systems and increase the number of security cameras at hospitals.Over the week, the doctors’ strike that began in Bengal spread across 17 states and Union Territories. Resident doctors of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Safdarjung Hospital, who boycotted work on Friday, gave Banerjee a 48-hour ultimatum to meet the junior doctors’ demands, failing which they plan to begin an indefinite strike.At the same time, doctors in Bengal continued their resignation threat. On Saturday, as many as 40 doctors from Kalyani’s JNM Medical College and Hospital and 26 from Midnapore Medical College and Hospital submitted letters to the authorities expressing their desire to resign. So far, over 700 doctors have threatened to put in their papers.On Saturday afternoon, the police made security bandobast outside the Institute of Neurosciences in south Kolkata where the chief minister was expected to visit Paribaha Mukherjee, the junior doctor assaulted on Monday night. But she did not show up till evening.Mukherjee is doing well and is out of danger, said P Bardhan, superintendent of the Institute of Neurosciences.The efforts to break the deadlock began on Saturday morning with Indian Medical Association all-India president Santanu Sen holding a meeting with protesters at NRS Medical College and Hospital, the epicentre of the agitation since Monday night.Sen appealed to the strikers to speak to the chief minister. But they got furious after Sen told reporters, “Outsiders present in the meeting were trying to derail efforts to resolve the impasse. Even those not involved with the medical profession were present in the general body meeting with junior doctors. They are trying to prolong the anarchy.”Opposition leaders reacted sharply to the failure of the government to resolve the crisis. “The doctors defied the chief minister’s ultimatum and she has acted obstinately by not visiting them, thereby causing endless trouble to the common people. She should resign,” said Bharatiya Janata Party national secretary Rahul Sinha.Congress MP Adhir Chowdhury tweeted, “Common people are selling their valuables and buying expensive private healthcare, while Didi is not going for talks with the doctors. Is she trying to fully privatise Bengal’s healthcare system?”More deaths at hospitalsA three-day-old baby boy died in Midnapore Medical College and Hospital (MMCH) on Saturday, as hundreds of patients continued to face hardships because of the strike. “The baby had troubled breathing since his birth on Wednesday but he did not get any treatment due to the doctors’ agitation,” said Mustakin Bibi, the baby’s grandmother.Trouble erupted in MMCH after the family members placed the baby’s lifeless body in front of the agitating junior doctors and blamed them for the death. Policemen from Kotwali police station were called in to control the situation.MMCH principal Panchanan Kundu said the infant had a problem in the lungs, and denied allegations of lack of treatment.In Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital, Chandnihara Bibi (51) died on Saturday afternoon. “We admitted my aunt with severe breathing problems. But the doctors didn’t even administer oxygen and saline due to their strike,” said Faizur Rahaman, a nephew of Bibi.After her death, hundreds began agitating but police restored order. The scene at state-run medical colleges did not change much on Satutrday. Outpatients’ departments were closed and, in some cases, emergency services, too, remained suspended.