NEITHER THE expulsion notices issued late Wednesday night, nor attempts by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the medical education department to placate them had the immediate effect as several protesting resident doctors at state-run hospitals announced that their mass casual leave would continue.
According to the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), a letter was issued to all agitating doctors to immediately resume work. Several, however, remained on leave till late Thursday night, asking for more time to take a decision.
Doctors in Nagpur and Aurangabad have decided not to resume work immediately.
Nearly 4,500 resident doctors at government hospitals have been on strike across Maharashtra since Monday, demanding better security in hospitals. The mass casual leave was announced after a spate of incidents in which doctors were assaulted by angry relatives of patients.
On Thursday, even as the Bombay High Court ordered that no punitive action be taken against doctors resuming duty immediately, the state government assured the doctors’ representatives at a meeting that a vigilance committee would be formed along with the deputation of armed security personnel in hospitals in sensitive areas.
The protest also garnered support from medical bodies across several states.
“We are getting support from associations in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and West Bengal. Even the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin lent its support today,” said Dr Parthiv Sanghvi, secretary of the Mumbai unit of Indian Medical Association (IMA). Nearly 40,000 members of the IMA were on strike Thursday in support of government resident doctors. Doctors at AIIMS, Delhi, too staged a silent protest march against the rising number of assault cases in government hospitals.
On Thursday, Fadnavis proposed an apex council of representatives from the state government and doctors for regular interaction every three months to resolve their charter of demands. “We strongly condemn the mindless attack against doctors. My government will proactively work with the doctors to provide more security in their work place and also cater to all their demands that have long been neglected,” he said. The CM directed the authorities to provide security, including armed policemen, in hospitals in sensitive areas, along with scaling up CCTV camera coverage.
He appealed to the protesting doctors: “The ongoing doctors’ strike is causing a lot of inconvenience to the people. You cannot deprive people of medical attention, especially those who are helpless and battling for life and death.”
On Wednesday and Thursday, 14 medical colleges in Maharashtra and three in Mumbai served expulsion notices on over 4,000 doctors who refused to report to work. Some were personally invited by the dean to receive the notice while others saw it pasted on their hostel doors. “We are ready to withdraw expulsion notices after today’s hearing in court. But doctors need to report to duty immediately,” said Dr Ramesh Bharmal, dean at Mumbai’s BYL Nair Hospital.
A senior MARD member said the association asked its members to withdraw strike after the court hearing. “It is an individual doctor’s decision whether or not to join work. Several said they would report to work when security changes are noticed on campus,” said the doctor.
Another doctor added, “The government had assured us even last year but nothing changed on ground.”
The protest is expected to be called off by Friday when all resident doctors will resume duty. By Thursday night itself, at least 300 resident doctors chose to resume duty in Mumbai’s four major government hospitals.
“At KEM Hospital, 20 resident doctors reported to duty, 82 in Sion and three in Nair hospital,” said Dr Avinash Supe, dean at KEM Hospital.