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Doctors' strike hits OP clinics

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NO ONE TO CARE: A scene from the General Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram as doctors went on a strike on Wednesday. - Photo: S. Mahinsha
NO ONE TO CARE: A scene from the General Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram as doctors went on a strike on Wednesday. - Photo: S. Mahinsha

Staff Reporter

24-hour strike to demand a better pay scale; IMA observes Protest Day

Thiruvananthapuram: Doctors in the Health Service went on a 24-hour strike on Wednesday demanding a hike in their basic pay.

The strike which began at 8 a.m. affected the functioning of out-patient (OP) clinics in all major government hospitals. However, casualty services were not affected and in-patients in wards were attended to by duty doctors.

In the General Hospital (GH) here, only the Skin and Dental OPs functioned. Patients who came to the hospital were attended to by duty doctors in the casualty, seven of whom were on duty on Wednesday. House surgeons undergoing training were also available for service. No casualties were reported on the day.

The OP attendance here was quite low and it seemed that people were aware of the strike by doctors, the GH authorities said. In rural areas, the doctors themselves had given wide publicity to the fact that they would not be available for duty and hence there were few visitors to primary and community health centres.

The government doctors have been on a non-cooperation strike since April 17, demanding a better basic pay scale. Though the Government held several rounds of discussions with representatives of the Kerala Government Medical Officers' Association, the offer of a better basic pay scale is yet to come from the Government, the KGMOA said.

Doctors point out that after the last pay revision, their salary actually had actually gone down. The basic pay of a doctor in the entry cadre Assistant Surgeon which was Rs. 7,600 before the pay revision became Rs.7,200 after it. At the same time, the basic pay of six categories of government employees who were on the same pay scale went up to Rs.12,250 after the pay revision, the KGMOA said.

A KGMOA spokesperson told The Hindu that the only benefit that the doctors had been offered now was an increase in allowance. "The allowance given to a doctor with a DM specialisation was Rs.650, which has now been hiked by Rs.95. This is the `15 per cent hike' that the Minister said has been given to government doctors," he said.

Similarly, a doctor with MD will get a hike of Rs.85 on his current allowance of Rs.550 and a MBBS plus diploma-holder will get a hike of Rs.60 on his allowance of Rs.400. Also, the charge allowance has been hiked from Rs.100 to Rs. 115 and risk allowance from Rs.90 to Rs.99. At a time, only any two allowances can be claimed.

"What we are looking for is a better basic pay scale, which the Government does not want to give. It is trying to mislead the public by claiming that a hike of Rs.1,500 has been given to doctors working in `difficult rural area,' because their numbers do not exceed 20. There are 600 vacancies in the Government Health Service now. Those of us in service are taking on additional charges to make up for this deficiency, which is not being recognised at all," the KGMOA spokesperson said.

By the end of 2007, some 500 doctors in the Health Service will be retiring, aggravating the current shortage of doctors. The measly pay given to government doctors will only keep away young medical graduates from joining the Health Service, he said.

Support for stir

Meanwhile, the entire medical fraternity has expressed its solidarity with the striking government doctors .

The Indian Medical Association observed a Protest Day State-wide on Wednesday and demanded that the Government pay heed to the genuine demands of government doctors. Doctors were being paid salaries lesser than that of schoolteachers.

The IMA would join the agitation if the Government did not settle the strike, it said in a statement here.

The Junior Doctors' Association, at it State-level meeting here, declared that none of the junior doctors would join the Health Service as the pay and service conditions in Government

Service had deteriorated further. The Association would join the IMA and go on an agitation to support the KGMOA, it said.

The House Surgeons' Association in the medical college here and the students' wing of the IMA also extended their support to the doctors and threatened to go on an agitation.

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