Doctors' stir: patients left in the lurch

BANGALORE, APRIL 24. Long queues of patients waiting for treatment and crowded wards with no doctors to attend to the sick. The scene at Victoria Hospital was one of chaos today, with patients at the receiving end.

The strike called by the junior doctors, including those from the Bangalore Medical College, to which the Victoria Hospital is affiliated, left the patients in the lurch. The doctors were protesting against the fee hike for postgraduate medical courses.

One patient in the female emergency ward died because of dehydration. Eighty-year-old Moramma, who was brought to the hospital on Friday, was diagnosed with acute gastroenteritis, hospital sources said. Around 2.30 p.m. she developed complications but there was no doctor to attend to her and no attempt was made to revive her. The woman died at about 3 p.m., though the hospital authorities did not confirm the death. Even after she died, doctors were not available to confirm or record the death immediately.

The out-patient department (OPD) was witness to angry outbursts by patients and their relatives who were waiting for long hours. In the male OPD, where there are six doctors on duty normally, not a single doctor was present. Venkatesha, a labourer from Tavarekere, was running high fever and had difficulty in breathing. "We have been waiting here for the past one hour but no doctor has come to check him," said Venkatesha's wife and relatives.

One patient with meningitis, who had been referred by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) to Victoria Hospital, was left lying on a stretcher unattended in the male OPD.

"We came here four hours ago, but no one is telling us when the doctor will come," said another patient, Omkar Achar, who was injured in an accident on Friday night. Siddaraju, Medical Superintendent of Victoria Hospital, said alternative arrangements had been made so that patients were not inconvenienced. "We have asked our senior doctors to attend to patients and we have also requested the Health Department authorities for additional staff," he said. The scene was similar at Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital where there was a long queue till the evening at the OPD. Patients in the wards were left unattended. The junior doctors have threatened to boycott even emergency work from Monday, if no action was taken to revoke the fee hike.

Junior doctors in Hubli, Mysore, and Kolar held a token protest by wearing black badges.

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