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Friday, August 19, 2022

All work and no pay: Protesting Telangana senior resident doctors seek better treatment

Most of the 698 senior resident doctors who joined one-year compulsory service at 28 government hospitals in 2021 after their post-graduation have not received the monthly stipends for the last 3 to 5 months. The protesting medicos have threatened to boycott emergency services as well from July 1.

A total of 698 senior resident doctors who joined one-year compulsory service at 28 government hospitals across the state in November 2021 after completion of their post-graduation, boycotted their elective services Wednesday.(Express Photo)

“At the peak of all three Covid waves we did our best to serve without complaining. Do we deserve this?” asked a protester in her late 20s, pointing to the plight of all the senior resident doctors like her who are forced to beg for what is rightfully due to them – a stipend for the last three to seven months. Her agony does not end here. “As we are serving a bond, the tenure of which is unknown, we are now specialist doctors who don’t have the degree and moreover ineligible for registration as specialists with the Medical Council of India (MCI) or any state council to start practice.”

A total of 698 senior resident doctors who joined one-year compulsory service at 28 government hospitals across the state in November 2021 after completion of their post-graduation, boycotted their elective services Wednesday. While most of them have not received the monthly stipends for the last 3 to 5 months, many have not received the stipend since they joined the service seven months ago. If their demands are not heeded, they have threatened to boycott emergency services as well from July 1.

The irate medicos, who are entitled to a sum of Rs 80,500 for their services have organised under the banner of Telangana Senior Resident Doctors Association (TSRDA) to demand the government their rightful pay.

The strike notice issued Tuesday said the senior residents have been relentlessly serving patients at their respective hospitals and medical colleges, even without proper accommodation, travel, or even basic facilities.

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“At 29, I am a qualified specialist. I have my wife and parents waiting for me back in Tamil Nadu. Yet, I am working and living in Hyderabad with no salary for five months, and I have to depend on my aged parents even for my basic expenses,” says Dr Vinod, who was among the doctors who staged a protest Wednesday at Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital in Hyderabad.

The doctors are hooked to the compulsory service for many reasons. “We will not get our degrees and PG registrations if we don’t finish this compulsory service. If we still want to leave mid-way, we are required to pay back Rs 20 lakh as a penalty,” explained another protestor. “There is no end to our mental agony and mounting financial debts. We are not asking for anything that is not ours. We have done our duty and we want our remuneration. It is sheer exploitation in the name of a one-year compulsory service,” she adds.

Another doctor, requesting anonymity, quipped, “In the name of compulsory one-year service, we were denied a better paying job in the corporate sector or abroad. Without a degree or PG registration, we are not even eligible for a contract job. We cannot go for fellowships or a super-specialisation course. Now, we will have to compete with our juniors next June for jobs.”

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These are the PG doctors of the 2018-21 batch who completed their course when the third wave was round the corner.

“When we were under a lot of stress, our exams were cancelled and we were directed to join Covid duty in May. Even though our service continued till July, we have not been remunerated for May till now. The exams were held in July and August, the results were declared by September-end, and we were asked to join one-year compulsory service starting November 2021,” recalled Dr Abdullah Umar, another protestor who has not received a stipend for the past five months. Umar said that some doctors received two to three months’ stipends in February after they staged demonstrations at their respective colleges. “When other doctors and hospital staff are paid on time, why discriminate against us,” he asked.

Doctors say their repeated requests and representations have fallen on deaf ears. One of their demands is that their three months’ extension of service (between May and July) during the second wave of Covid be included in the ongoing compulsory one-year service so that they can be relieved by the end of July.

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“Job vacancies for doctors are usually notified in June. Had these three months been included in the one-year bond, we could have been relieved by now. But we do not have any clarity on when we would be relieved. We would end up competing with our juniors for jobs next June. Or even if we are relieved in mid-year, we end up being unemployed,” said Dr Madhur, another protestor. “Since we are not yet registered for specialties, we can do that only next year,” he rued.

Among other things, they have also demanded that senior doctors of the 2018 MD/MS batch and 2019 PG Diploma batch who worked during the peak of the second wave in May 2021 be paid a stipend for the month.

First published on: 29-06-2022 at 08:41:22 pm
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