Resident doctors call strike after meeting Union health minister Harsh Vardhan
The resident doctors of the All India institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, called off their strike with immediate effect on Sunday after a meeting with Union health minister Harsh Vardhan.
Earlier in the day, the health minister, assured the junior doctors that all their apprehensions about the Nationals medical commission Bill 2019, be it related to National Exit Test (NEXT) or training of staff to practice medicine at the mid-level as community health providers will be addressed while drafting the regulations.
The doctors conveyed to Dr Randeep Guleria, Director AIIMS, that they were withdrawing the protest period be considered on-duty for the striking doctors.
“... conveyed the decision of withdrawing of the strike and resuming of all services... with immediate effect provided the aiims administration clarifies in writing that the strike period be considered as on-duty as assured by the health minister...,” said the RDA through a statement.
Earlier in the day, the Union health minister, Harsh Vardhan, on Sunday morning met representatives of the resident doctors’ association (RDAs) from country’s premier medical institutes associated with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Safdarjung Hospital, and urged them to call off their strike. This was his second meeting with the representatives of the resident doctors in three days.
The resident doctors at various government medical colleges have been on strike since August 1 in protest against the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill 2019 that was tabled and passed in Rajya Sabha with amendments the same day.
“..I met RDA representatives of Aiims and Safdarjung and tried to clarify their misconception against the NMC Bill. I strongly believe that the striking doctors will call off their strike keeping in mind the inconvenience being caused to patients and in the larger interest of the nation,” tweeted Harsh Vardhan, after his meeting with the representatives.
“I reiterated that the Bill is going to be a boon in the field of healthcare.” He said.
The sources in the health ministry confirmed that there was an attempt to clarify the doubts of junior doctors.
“The minister tried his best to convince the members of RDAs citing best practices across the globe and how their fears were baseless. Poor patients are suffering as a result of this strike and we hope they call it off soon,” said a health ministry official, requesting anonymity.
The resident doctors, however, have not taken a decision on ending the strike as yet. All non-essential services such as out patient departments (OPDs) have been shut and even in the emergency department only critically ill patients are being taken in. All routine surgeries have been cancelled and only emergency surgeries are being conducted.
While the government has hailed the bill, that is meant to replace graft-tainted Medical Council of India (MCI), as revolutionary and a watershed in the field of medical regulation, doctors from bodies such as Indian Medical Association (IMA) and resident doctors across the country find some of its clauses contentious.
One of the main contentions against the bill is that it proposes a common entrance exam- National Exit Test (NEXT)- which could be treated as the final year exam for the undergraduate course, as the licentiate exam for a career in medicine, and also as the entrance exam for post graduate courses in the country. It will also be used to screen students graduating from foreign countries.
The other problem is that it allows ‘limited access to practice medicine’ for people connected with modern scientific medicine mid-level community health providers that students feel will give rise to quackery.
“The fear is baseless as there has been a practice even developed countries to build a carder of community health workers at the mid-level to provide basic healthcare that is working successfully,” said Harsh Vardhan.