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Panic button, access control: Mamata firms up security plan to end doctors’ strike

The protests began last week after at least three junior doctors were beaten up by family members of a patient who died in a state-run hospital in Bengal.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2019 19:36 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
IMA,striking doctors,Bengal doctors
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who met junior doctors from state-run hospitals, accepted many suggestions made by the representatives of the striking doctors.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday accepted an unusual demand to live stream her meeting with representatives from Bengal’s medical colleges after the striking junior doctors made this a pre-condition to meet the chief minister at the state secretariat. The meeting was to take place at 3 pm but started a little late due to the back-and-forth over the live telecast pre-condition. The agitation over a doctor’s assault in Kolkata has spread beyond Bengal to nearly 17 states.

At the meeting, Mamata Banerjee accepted several suggestions made by the young doctors including a grievance cell in all government hospitals where patients, who were not satisfied with the doctors, could complain. Banerjee also underlined that it wasn’t that her government had less than a zero tolerance policy towards attacks on doctors.

“No government wants to have an incident like that. Things like this happens spontaneously, just like police vehicles are burnt. We don’t want that and we don’t want you to get hurt,” she told the doctors during the interaction. She also accepted the demand to control access to emergency wards of hospitals and installing panic buttons for doctors that could be used to alert the local police station about a potential threat.

Banerjee, who asked Kolkata’s top police officer to respond to criticism that policemen at NRS hospital did not come to the rescue of the doctor who was beaten by a patient’s relatives, also ordered that the police would appoint nodal officers for hospitals for security of doctors.

The meeting was held after protests, which began on Monday last after at least three junior doctors were beaten up by family members of a patient who died in the state-run NRS Medical College, has paralysed operations of outpatient departments (OPDs) and spilled over to other parts of the country, including the national capital of New Delhi.

At their meeting, the doctors are expected to seek better infrastructure at state-run hospitals, better security and the arrest of the attackers at NRS Hospital during the meeting.

Mamata Banerjee had last week admonished the young doctors when she first turned up at a protest by doctors at the hospital and threatened to have them evicted from their hostels if they did not call off their agitation and get back to treating patients. Mamata Banerjee’s outburst, widely seen as a self-goal, was blamed for the agitators hardening their stance and united government doctors across the country.

Watch | Doctors continue nationwide strike post Bengal violence

Thousands of doctors skipped work on Monday protesting against unsafe conditions at work after three of their colleagues were assaulted in West Bengal last week, paralysing health facilities across the country. The strike was called by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Doctors of state-run medical colleges and hospitals in West Bengal are already protesting since last week.

Health care services continue to remain affected in the emergency wards, outdoor facilities and pathological units of many state-run hospitals and private medical facilities in West Bengal on Monday, the seventh day of the strike.

The top medical body said all non-essential services, including outdoor patient department (OPD) services, will be withdrawn for 24 hours from 6 am on Monday to 6 am on Tuesday. Emergency and casualty services will continue to function, it said.

Doctors at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi took out a protest march on Monday and are on strike from Monday noon till 6 am on Tuesday. Emergency services including casualty, ICU and labour room will function as usual.

“We once again urge the West Bengal administration to fulfil the demands of the striking doctors and resolve the matter amicably at the earliest in the best interest of the general public,” the AIIMS Resident Doctors Association (RDA) said in a statement.

It said a meeting of its general body will be held at 6 pm to decide the further course of action.

Doctors in several other states like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tripura are also striking.

Also Read: Doctors on strike in Jharkhand, OPDs across the state to remain shut on Monday

IMA had launched a four-day nationwide protest from Friday and wrote to Union home minister Amit Shah demanding a central law to check violence against healthcare workers.

Its announcement for a strike on Sunday came a day after Union health minister Harsh Vardhan asked states to consider enacting specific legislation for protecting doctors and medical professionals from any form of violence.

IMA, however, demanded a comprehensive central law to deal with violence on doctors and healthcare staff, and in hospitals. Security measures and the determinants leading to violence should also be addressed, it said in a statement.

Exemplary punishment for perpetrators of violence should be a component of the central law and suitable amendments should be brought in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), IMA said.

IMA said in its statement that effective implementation of the central law has to be ensured by incorporating suitable clauses. Structured safety measures, including three-layer security, CCTV cameras and restriction of entry of visitors should be well defined and enforced uniformly across the country in all sectors, it said.

“Healthcare violence has its origin in high expectations, lack of infrastructure and inadequate human resources. Issues of medical profession involving a doctor-patient relationship, effective communication regarding the nature of illness and professional counselling play a part as well,” IMA said in the statement.

“The IMA expects the government of India to provide for each of these components.”

Also Read:Doctors’ strike live updates: IMA calls nationwide strike against assault on doctors in West Bengal

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Jun 17, 2019 08:45 IST