It’s been three years since Dr Varun Kumar has been working at Delhi’s Kasturba Hospital. But one thing that has always bothered him is the fact that salaries are never on time. “It is always two-three months late. Sometimes, the administration releases a month’s salary. After that, things are back to the same,” he says.
A senior resident in the Pathology department, Dr Kumar is among the 45 junior doctors who haven’t been paid for the last two months. “We have never said no to work. We never went on any strike. We know that if we go on a strike, all patients will suffer. But if this continues, we might have to resign. What is the point of working without salary,” he asks.
On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court, hearing of a PIL on non-payment of salaries to resident doctors of Kasturba Hospital and Hindu Rao Hospital, asked: “Can we not pay them?”
Dr Rahil, a senior resident doctor in the Paediatric department, finds working without salaries extremely difficult for him and his family. “We have to pay our rent and send money to our family. We were promised that we will get the entire amount. But they have only given us two months’ salary. For how long will we work like this,” he asks.
A junior resident doctor who wished to remain unnamed says doctors are living in fear. “We have to work during the pandemic and also have to look after our families. All this is making us depressed. It is difficult to manage everything if the administration doesn’t support us,” he says.
A 450-bed facility in Delhi’s walled city area, the Kasturba Hospital is one of the largest maternity hospitals in Asia with 350 beds set aside for Gynaecology and Obstetrics. The hospital is run by North Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
Mayor Jai Prakash of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation blamed the situation on the acute cash crunch faced by the civic body due to the lockdown. “Our revenues have been severely hit. Property tax collection has been adversely affected. There was literally no collection under parking fees and other charges like map fees, advertisements, toll etc. Our revenue is down to almost 25 per cent,” he reasoned.
The doctors had got two months salary after the Supreme Court directed that all health workers across the country should be given salaries. However, there is no clarity on the salary that is still pending.
“We first spoke to the Medical Superintendent. We were told that our salaries will be released as soon as they get funds. Then we met the North MCD Commissioner. He also said there are no funds. If there is a shortage of funds, why can’t the state government or the Centre help us out,“ asks Dr Sunil Kumar, president of the Resident Doctors’ Association. He also warns of an impending medical crisis in the hospital as it plans to increase the number of beds without adequate manpower. Calls to Dr Leela Pant, Medical Superintendent, Kasturba hospital went unanswered.
The Mayor says it might take time but things will be back on track. ”As of now, we have created a roster system. The junior-most employees will be given preference. Group D employees like drivers, safai karamcharis and peons will be given salaries first so that they don’t have to bear the brunt,” he says.
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