The strike called by junior doctors at Hyderabad’s Gandhi General Hospital entered day 3 even as state Health Minister Eatala Rajender invited them to another round of talks on Thursday evening.
Nearly 450 doctors sat on strike on Tuesday evening following an alleged attack on junior doctors by attendants of a deceased Covid patient at Gandhi hospital, which is the nodal hospital for Covid-19 treatment in Telangana. The Telangana Junior Doctors Association (T-JUDA) also submitted a memorandum to the state health minister and chief minister, demanding increased security, decentralisation of Covid treatment, and immediate recruitment of additional staff. The state health minister had called the protesting doctors for a meeting on Wednesday.
Holding placards and shouting slogans, the junior doctors squatted outside the hospital building Thursday morning. In a written memorandum, T-JUDA informed the hospital superintendent Dr Raja Rao that their demands have not been met by the health minister. “We are not going to resume our duties until our demands (decentralization of Covid cases) are fulfilled in a time-bound manner by the chief minister/ health minister,” the memorandum said.
junior doctors at #GandhiHospital continue with their strike on day 3 demanding decentralization of #Covid19 treatment in #Telangana and immediate recruitment of manpower after talks with govt failed yesterday @IndianExpress video is sourced. pic.twitter.com/CJ6Rg9JJfh
— Rahul V Pisharody (@rahulvpisharody) June 11, 2020
The junior doctors, who have been on Covid duty since the beginning of March, demanded that Covid treatment be distributed among other state-run hospitals instead of mounting pressure on Gandhi hospital. Citing exhaustion, they blamed the state government for showing no interest in fresh recruitment which, they said, is the need of the hour. They raised the immediate need for specialist doctors, broad specialty doctors, nursing staff, paramedic staff (ICU technicians and lab technicians), ward boys, and patients care providers (permanently through HMSRB) to avoid crumbling of available medical infrastructure.
Speaking to indianexpress.com about, Dr Lohith Reddy, president, T-JUDA Gandhi Hospital, said the talks with the state government failed due to lack of any clarity for a result. “The health minister listened to our problems and said he will take the matter to the chief minister. He did not clearly tell what we should do with our issues. We wanted a time-bound solution.”
During the meeting on Wednesday, the health minister had assured that SARI and ILI cases would not be taken to Gandhi hospital for isolation. The Director of Medical Education late on Wednesday issued orders directing all teaching hospitals throughout the State to admit SARI and ILI cases to decrease the caseload on Gandhi hospital. These patients who are most vulnerable to Covid-19 were till now being admitted, tested, and treated at Gandhi hospital.
If such cases are admitted into peripheral hospitals as suspected Covid patients, what is the need to shift them to Gandhi hospital for treatment and why not treat them there itself, asked Dr Lohith. “Whether they are Covid positive or negative, the treatment will be the same. It is only the diagnosis that will change. We do not understand why Gandhi hospital should treat all the patients?” he asked.
“For the last one month, we have been making ourselves clear. What we want is the distribution of Covid treatment to other hospitals. If the health minister assures us that the government will do the required in so many days, we will go back to work. There is no clarity as of now and our strike will continue,” he added.
At the moment, 350 resident doctors and 180 house surgeons at Gandhi hospital are part of the strike. Their absence from duties is managed by another 250 government doctors including senior residents, assistant professors, associate professors, and professors.
The 1100-bed Gandhi hospital’s capacity has been increased to over 2000 in the wake of the Covid pandemic. “All of these patients are critical cases. We cannot work for 24 hours round the week with the staff strength we have now. We cannot stay in PPE suits for more than 6 hours. We are getting dehydrated while doing a 12-hour shift now. We have not met our families in three months,” Dr Lohith said.
Decentralisation, according to him, would mean reduction in caseload on doctors at Gandhi hospital. Several instances alleging lack of adequate medical care have surfaced of late and according to doctors, it is the severe staff crunch and a rising caseload that is the cause.
“If the government cannot recruit staff immediately, let the staff in district hospitals be deputed to hospitals in Hyderabad or even better if the patients are treated in the districts itself. That will also reduce the caseload on us,” he said.
On effect of the ongoing strike on the patient care at the moment, Dr Lohith said, “It may affect for a day or two. But we are seeking solutions to our long term problems. If these issues are addressed now, it would be easier for the State and hospital administration to handle the crisis better in the coming days when cases might rise further.”
As of June 10, the total number of Covid-19 cases in Telangana stood at 4,111, with 191 new cases reported on Wednesday. While the number of active cases stands at 2,138, the death toll has increased to 158.