Over 4,500 doctors from across 14 medical colleges in the state and Mumbai civic hospitals sent in individual applications to take indefinite leave on Monday. The protest follows a series of assaults on doctors in public hospitals that, doctors say, have instilled fear in them.
In Mumbai, 2,500 resident doctors from JJ, Sion, KEM, Nair and RN Cooper Hospital joined the statewide protests against lack of security forces in hospitals. With a massive dearth of medical staff in major hospitals, over 300 surgeries were postponed on Monday.
Since March 12, five episodes of assault on doctors have been reported in Dhule, Shirpur, Nashik, Aurangabad and Mumbai.
In the latest case, resident doctor Sarang Dave in a letter to hospital authorities refused to report as the emergency unit doctor after he was allegedly threatened by a patient’s relatives in Parel’s Wadia hospital.
According to him, a pregnant woman was brought to the hospital on March 18 at 6.15 am for delivery. The Ambernath resident was referred from JJ hospital as JJ did not have beds available for neonatal care.
In his complaint, Dave claims that over eight relatives threatened him and the staff nurse of dire consequences if they were not allocated a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) bed in Wadia Hospital. “We requested the relatives to have patience, but they kept misbehaving… I am not in a state to work in this fearful condition,” wrote Dave.
While a bed was allocated to the patient, the doctor alleges the relatives also fought over the cost of a ventilator facility and treatment. According to hospital superintendent, Dr Minnie Bodhanwala, the situation was brought under control and there were security guards in the ward when the incident occurred. “Doctors have individually handed over letters of leave. But patients in emergency ward are usually tense and need counselling. In this case, communication was later made with relatives,” Bodhanwala said.
In a similar case, resident doctors were assaulted in Aurangabad’s Government Medical College on Sunday night by a patient’s relatives. Dr Vivek Badge and Dr Umesh Kakde were attacked allegedly by relatives of a patient who had suffered a fracture and had come to remove his plaster. Both the doctors claim the relatives were under influence of alcohol and created a commotion in the orthopedic ward.
Of over 300 surgeries that were rescheduled, 126 surgeries were postponed at KEM, 102 at Sion, 22 in JJ and 35 in Nair hospital. Lecturers and professors were asked to handle out patient department (OPD) along with emergency surgeries. Of 509 resident doctors in Nair hospital, 90 per cent refused to report for duty. In JJ hospital, where over 400 residents work, the hospital had to heavily rely on unregistered doctors who work on six month internship to run its OPD. “All senior doctors were called to handle surgeries,” a hospital official said.
“The mass leave is expected to continue indefinitely until issue of security is sorted,” said Dr Sagar Mundada, youth chairman of Indian Medical Association (IMA).
A delegation of IMA, Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) and medical college deans met BMC’s additional municipal commissioner to demand to fill vacant security posts along with sanctioning new ones.
According to Dr Shivkumar Utture, elected member of Maharashtra Medical Council, the medical education minister has also assured 1,200 new security posts.
Doctors across major hospitals will continue to take leave in protest against low conviction rates in cases of such assaults. Data gathered by IMA showed that 35 such cases in last three years had zero conviction.
“Until one person is imprisoned for assaulting doctors and nurses, public will have no fear in vandalising government hospitals,” Utture added.