Government doctors' strike from December 21

Medical services in the State are likely to be hit in the coming week, with members of the Karnataka Government Health Department Officers and Employees’ Welfare Samiti threatening to strike work from December 21.

More than 65,000 members of the samiti — comprising doctors, paramedics, drivers and other Group D employees working in the Health Department — will stop functioning from that day in support of their demands that include withdrawal of the 10 district hospitals (attached to medical colleges) from the Medical Education Department.

Shutdown

Samiti president H.N. Ravindra told presspersons on Monday that all government hospitals will shutdown from December 21 and the keys will be handed over to the jurisdictional deputy commissioners.

“We are firm this time. We will continue the strike until our demands are met. Apart from the withdrawal of the district hospitals, we want the government to stop the establishment of seven medical colleges,” he said.

Demanding that the salaries of Group D employees and other hospital staff in rural areas should be paid every month, Dr. Ravindra said: “Now the salaries are being paid through the zilla panchayats. Most of the time, they don’t get salaries for more than six months at a time as the zilla panchayats divert the funds for other purposes. We want the salaries to be paid directly through the Finance Department.”

Long-pending appeal

The Karnataka Government Medical Officers’ Association’s (KGMOA) — which has now merged with the samiti — demand for withdrawal of the district hospitals and merger of incentives with basic pay of doctors has been pending for long.

‘No promotion’

“Although these hospitals were under the Health Department earlier, their transfer to the Medical Education Department has deprived doctors under the Health Department of promotion opportunities,” Dr. Ravindra said. Pointing out that Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar had assured in August that a Cabinet sub-committee, headed by Deputy Chief Minister R. Ashok, would be set up to examine the issue regarding withdrawal of medical colleges, he said nothing had happened till date.

Principal Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) M. Madan Gopal said discussions were on with the striking doctors. “We are trying to make them understand that once the Cabinet sub-committee is set up, things can be sorted out. We are waiting for the Cabinet to approve the formation of the committee,” he said.

“The doctors’ confrontation is with the Medical Education Department. While we will try to convince the doctors to withdraw their strike call, we will also ensure that patients will not be put to hardship,” Mr. Madan Gopal added.