The stir by junior doctors protesting assault on two of their colleagues at a hospital in Kolkata assumed nationwide proportions on June 14 with government doctors in various states expressing solidarity and resorting to agitations.
The doctors have demanded Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s unconditional apology and set six conditions for the state government to withdraw their four-day-long stir that disrupted healthcare services across West Bengal. Among other things, they are pressing for more stringent laws to protect them from such assaults.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) launched a three-day nationwide protest from Friday to express solidarity with the doctors and called for a strike on June 17 with withdrawal of non-essential health services.
In Delhi, scores of doctors at several government and private hospitals held demonstrations by boycotting work, marching and raising slogans.
They also met Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and apprised him of the medical fraternity’s demand of ensuring safety and security of doctors in face of any violence in hospital premises.
Here are the updates:
Mamata invites doctors for meeting at Secretariat, medicos refuse
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has invited the agitating junior doctors for a meeting at the state secretariat, which they declined saying it is a ploy to break their stir.
She convened the meeting to find a solution to the ongoing impasse disrupting normal services at all state-run medical college and hospitals for four days.
After the protesting doctors did not turn up on June 14, Ms. Banerjee gave them time again at 5 p.m. on June 15 for the meeting at State Secretariat Nabanna, senior physician Sukumar Mukherjee said.
Dr. Mukherjee along with other senior doctors, who were not part of the agitating medicos, went to meet Ms. Banerjee and held a two-hour-long meeting with the Chief Minister at the Secretariat to find out a solution.
Ms. Banerjee then asked Director of Medical Education Pradip Mitra to invite three or four junior doctors to the Secretariat for the meeting.
They, however, refused to go the meeting.
“This is a ploy to break our unity, our agitation. We will not attend any meeting at the state secretariat. The chief minister has to come here (NRS Medical College and Hospital) and deliver an unconditional apology for the manner in which she had addressed us during her visit to SSKM Hospital yesterday,” a spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors said.
Called up Mamata to discuss strike issue, got no response: Governor
West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi has said he called up Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to discuss the issue of junior doctors’ strike but got no response from her.
Mr. Tripathi paid a visit to injured junior doctor Paribaha Mukhopadhyay at the hospital where he is undergoing treatment.
“I have tried to contact the chief minister. I have called her up. Till this moment there is no response from her. If she calls me, we will discuss the matter,” he told reporters after visiting Dr. Mukhopadhyay at the hospital.'
Mr. Tripathi met representatives of the doctors on June 13.
Plea in Supreme Court for safety, security of doctors at government hospitals
In the wake of protests by doctors in West Bengal against assault on their colleagues, a plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking to ensure safety and security of doctors in government hospitals across the country. The petition sought directions to Union ministries of home affairs and health as also West Bengal to depute government appointed security personnel at all government hospitals across the country to ensuring safety and security of the doctors.
Due to protests, the healthcare services in the country have been badly disrupted and many people are dying because of the absence of the doctors, it said.
“The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has supported the agitation of the doctors and has directed its members of all its state branches to stage protests ad wear black badges on Friday. Many senior doctors have resigned from their government posts in order to express solidarity with the agitating doctors,” it said.
The plea, filed by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, also sought directions to the West Bengal government to take strictest legal and penal action against the attackers who assaulted junior doctors at NRS Medical College Hospital, Kolkata, on June 10.
“As per the study conducted by IMA, more than 75 percent of doctors across the country have faced some form of violence. This study concluded that 50 percent violent incidents took place in the Intensive Care Unit of hospitals and in 70 percent of cases, the relatives of the patients were actively involved,” it said.
The plea sought directions to formulate appropriate guidelines/act/rule or regulation to ensure safety and security of the doctors working at government hospitals and to ensure its compliance.
“The doctors are our saviours and particularly the doctor working in government hospitals are doing great national service, particularly to the poor and downtrodden of this country, in extremely adverse circumstances,” it said.
Doctors seek Mamata Banerjee’s apology, set conditions to withdraw agitation
Agitating doctors have demanded West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s unconditional apology and set six conditions for the State government to withdraw their four-day-long stir that disrupted healthcare services across the State.
“We want unconditional apology of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the manner in which she had addressed us at the SSKM Hospital yesterday. She should not have said what she had,” a spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors, Dr. Arindam Dutta, said.
While visiting the SSKM Hospital on June 13, Ms. Banerjee contended that “outsiders” had entered medical colleges to create disturbances and the agitation was a conspiracy by the CPI (M) and the BJP.
Listing the six conditions, the agitators said the Chief Minister will have to visit the injured doctors at the hospital and her office should release a statement condemning the attack on them.
“We also want immediate intervention of the chief minister. Documentary evidence of judicial enquiry against the inactivity of the police to provide protection to the doctors at the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital on Monday night should also be provided,” he said.
Two junior doctors were assaulted on June 10 night by family members of a patient who died in the NRS Hospital. “We demand documentary evidence and details of action taken against those who had attacked us,” Dr. Dutta said.
They also demanded unconditional withdrawal of all “false cases and charges” which were imposed on junior doctors and medical students across West Bengal in the wake of their strike.
They also stressed on their demand for improvement of infrastructure in all health facilities as well as posting of armed police personnel there.
Doctors to strike work on June 17
Expressing solidarity with the protesting doctors, the Indian Medical Association has called for a strike on June 17 with withdrawal of non-essential health services.
All non-essential services including OPDs will be withdrawn for 24 hours from 6 am, while emergency and causality services will continue to function, says RV Asokan, Secretary General of IMA.
Violence in hospitals will adversely affect patient care and institutions will be reluctant to take up complicated and risky patients which will affect critical care. Threat of violence increases the stress levels of health care workers. Sound judgment regarding patient care will be compromised in such situations, he explained.
“A national law against violence in hospitals has to be brought in urgently that should provide a minimum of seven years imprisonment for hospital violence.
“To ensure that the cases are registered, culprits are arrested and conviction is necessitated, appropriate mandatory provisions as provided in the POCSO Act have to be instituted. Hospitals should be declared as safe zones and provision of appropriate security should be the responsibility of the state,” Asokan said.
Puducherry doctors extend support
Mamata's nephew joins protest
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abesh Banerjee, who is a medical student, came out in support of the protesting doctors.
Abesh Banerjee, whose Facebook bio describes him as the president of KPC Medical College and Hospital, was seen at a rally holding a placard that read: “You say we are Gods!! Why Treat us like Dogs?”
Earlier, Kolkata Mayor and state Minister Firhad Hakim’s daughter, a doctor, criticised the government’s handling of the ongoing doctors’ strike and said medicos had the right to “peaceful protest” and “safety at work”.
In a Facebook post, Shabba Hakim asked people to question why “goons were still surrounding hospitals and beating up doctors”.
Senior doctors resign en masse across West Bengal
Doctors of medical colleges and hospital in West Bengal on Friday offered to resign en masse in support of the protesting junior doctors of the State.
The first to offer their resignation were principal and medical superintendent and vice-principal of Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital (NRSMCH), which has been the epicentre of the protests.
The resignation of Saibal Kumar Mukherjee (principal) and Saurabh Chattopadhyay (medical superintendent and vice-principal) was hailed by the protesting junior doctors. In their resignation letters, both the doctors expressed their regret “for being unable to overcome the crisis prevailing at the NRS Medical College”.
Reports of the en mass resignation of senior doctors have come from hospitals and medical colleges and hospitals in the city and districts.
Mamata blames 'outsiders' for doctors strike
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reiterated that outsiders instigated the doctors’ agitation in the state and accused the BJP of targeting the Bengalis and the minorities.
“Outsiders are instigating the doctors. I had rightly said that they were involved in yesterday’s protest. I had seen some outsiders raising slogans (at SSKM hospital),” she said, while addressing a rally in Kanchrapara.
HC refuses to pass interim order on doctors’ strike
The Calcutta High Court on Friday refused to pass any interim order on the strike by junior doctors at state-run hospitals in protest against the attack on two of their colleagues by family members of a patient.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice TBN Radhakrishnan and Justice Suvra Ghosh asked the state government to persuade the striking doctors to resume work and provide usual services to patients.
The court also directed the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government to apprise it of the steps taken following the attack on the junior doctors at a city hospital on Monday night.
The Chief Justice, during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), reminded the striking doctors of the ‘Hippocratic Oath’ they take to ensure the welfare of all patients.
The bench fixed June 21 for further hearing of the petition.
Health services hit in New Delhi
Paralysing hospital services, both in the private and government sectors, doctors in the Capital on Friday boycotted work, observed a black day and also met Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to express solidarity with their protesting colleagues in West Bengal and condemned the violence against doctors there.
The strike adversely hit out-patient departments and diagnostic services at several large hospitals in the city, including All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Lok Nayak Hospital, GTB Hospital, Hindu Rao, Ganga Ram Hospital. Patients were offered only emergency and ward services.
Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital and Dr. Baba Sahib Ambedkar Hospital have said that they would be joining the ‘pen-down’ protest from Saturday.
Prominent Kolkata personalities meet protesting doctors, urge Mamata to resolve impasse
Several prominent personalities of the city have come out in support of the agitating doctors, some of them even urging West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to find a solution to the impasse, which entered the fourth day on Friday.
Filmmaker Aparna Sen, actor Kaushik Sen, musician Debojyoti Mishra, along with senior doctors from diverse fields, visited the agitators at NRS Medical College and Hospital, where an attack by the family members of a patient Monday night left two interns grievously injured and the medical system paralysed in the state.
What happened in West Bengal?
Junior doctors at government-run medical colleges and hospitals in West Bengal are striking work since Monday night, after two interns at Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata were assaulted by the family members of a patient who passed away during treatment. One of the intern, Paribaha Mukhopadhaya, was seriously injured in the assault, which led to agitation at the NRS college. The protest eventually spread across all medical college and hospitals in the State, affecting the healthcare infrastructure.
After a series of failed talks, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday, issued a stern warning to the striking doctors. The move snowballed into a bigger controversy and soon doctors across the country extended their support to their peers in the State.