Patients have it rough as resident doctors stay away from work

Refusing to budge: Doctors hold an agitation against the National Medical Commission Bill, which was recently passed by Parliament, at Azad Maidan on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

A Statewide strike of resident doctors disrupted health services on Wednesday. The doctors have threatened to continue the strike on Thursday if the State government fails to pay heed to their demands of stipend hike and regularity, and implementation of paid leave for maternity and tuberculosis.

‘Demands neglected’

“Our demands have been ignored for too long. We have been seeking updates from the authorities every month for the past one year but they have simply ignored us,” said Dr. Ashutosh Jadhao, general secretary of Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD). Nearly 70% of the about 4,500 resident doctors across the State stayed away from work in protest.

“The doctors worked in the emergency services in Pune due to the flood situation and in some other government hospitals where they were needed in emergency cases,” said Dr. Jadhao.

Dr. T.P. Lahane, head of the Directorate of Medical Education and Research, said he has instructed all the college deans to invoke the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act against the striking doctors, mainly their leaders. “We have agreed for a ₹5,000 stipend hike. The pending stipend of some colleges has already been released. They should not have stopped work at a time when many parts of the State are facing a deluge,” he said.

The stipend of resident doctors ranges from ₹52,000 to ₹54,000, the lowest as compared to other States. Resident doctors have demanded a hike of ₹10,000. Moreover, doctors in many Government Medical Colleges (GMCs) in Nagpur, Akola, Latur and Ambejogai have been getting their stipends irregularly. MARD has now demanded that both the issues be resolved, in addition to 90 days of paid leave for doctors who contract tuberculosis at work and six months paid leave for maternity.

According to Dr. Jadhao, five resident doctors in GMC Nagpur, six in GMC Pune, and five in Mumbai’s Sion Hospital have contracted TB in the past one year. While these are figures from just a few colleges, MARD says the TB menace is much more across more than 30 government-run colleges. State-run JJ Hospital too carried out only 20 surgeries, much below their daily average.

Rehana Sutar, a Virar resident who is five months pregnant, reached Parel’s KEM Hospital for her sonography appointment at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Due to the absence of doctors, she was sent back with a new appointment for August 28. “It is not easy to travel this far,” said Ms. Sutar. KEM Hospital’s dean, Dr. Hemant Deshmukh, said medical interns and senior full-time doctors managed the patients. “We have divided the doctors’ duties into three eight-hour shifts,” said Dr. Deshmukh.

‘No help at hand’

At the civic-run Sion Hospital, only four major and 16 minor surgeries were carried out by 4 p.m. on Wednesday. “Usually we carry out 45 major operations and 65 minor operations in a day. Due to the strike, we rescheduled about 20 surgeries,” said Dr. Rakesh Verma, deputy dean of the hospital.

Reeling in pain, Syed Ali had visited the hospital to remove the stitches on his operated leg. “There are no doctors. It’s been over an hour,” said Mr. Ali, who walked out of the hospital without getting any help.

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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 4:37:43 AM |

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