After three days of agitation in state-run medical college hospitals across West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday gave an ultimatum to the protesting junior doctors to resume services within hours or face strong action. However, junior doctors and interns defied the 2 pm deadline and resolved to continue their ceasework until their demands for security are met. A section of nurses and senior doctors also showed solidarity with the juniors. Full coverage in iebangla
Following Banerjee’s instructions, authorities opened the emergencies of SSKM Hospital and Burdwan Medical College and Hospital with senior doctors and professors. However, in other medical colleges and hospitals, OPDs and other services remained shut. Eleven senior doctors submitted their resignation at Sagar Dutta Medical College Hospital, stating that they cannot cope with the work pressure and insecurity.
The doctors have been agitating since Tuesday after two of their colleagues were attacked and seriously injured following a patient’s death at NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata.
The CM paid an unannounced visit to SSKM Hospital around noon Thursday and spoke to unattended patients. She visited OPDs and emergency, which were closed, even as agitating junior doctors chanted slogans and waved placards.
“Whatever happened was unfortunate, but at times relatives of patients get agitated. We have taken action and police have made arrests. Our minister Chandrima Bhattacharya (MoS Health and Family Welfare) visited them. The Kolkata police commissioner visited them. When I wanted to speak to them over phone they refused,” said Banerjee at the hospital.
“This cannot be tolerated. They will have to get back to work and provide service. Many policemen die on duty but do they go on strike? I give them four hours to join duty or action will be taken against them. I ask police to see that outsiders are not allowed in hostels. We will withdraw government support (stipend) to interns if they do not join work. I saw patients waiting for treatment and some of them are critical,” she said.
After the CM left SSKM, TMC workers began a counter-agitation at the hospital demanding resumption of services. However, the junior doctors announced that their agitation would continue until their demands are met. “The CM, instead of holding a meeting with junior doctors, has given a statement of threat. It is shameful. Apart from our other demands, we also want the CM to come to NRS and apologise for her statements. She is responsible for the healthcare situation in Bengal,” said Kobiyul Haque on behalf of Junior Doctors’ Unity.
Soon after, a delegation of junior doctors met Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi at Raj Bhawan. “They demanded adequate security and protection for the doctors in the hospitals, proper investigation and punishment for those who attacked the junior doctors and redressal of their other grievances. The representatives stated that they will resume duties on receipt of firm and credible assurance of their security by the state government. The governor has appealed to them to resume their duties in the interest of the patients. The governor also extends his appeal to all the doctors in the state to rejoin their duties,” read a statement issued by the Governor’s office.
“What the CM said proves she has no empathy for us. Instead, it seems she is holding us responsible. This is not the first time doctors have faced assault, but no step was taken. This time our backs are against the wall. During our agitation doctors faced assault in Burdwan and Midnapore medical college. We will continue the agitation,” said Kinshuk Karmakar, one of the junior doctors who met the Governor.
“The CM should visit NRS and speak with junior doctors. Armed policemen must be placed inside hospitals. We also ask that all the accused in the NRS incident be arrested and slapped with non-bailable sections. Two truckloads of miscreants attacked doctors and only five were arrested. We understand that patients are facing problems, but we need security first,” said Rajat Basu, another junior doctor.
Ceasework at medical college hospitals in Kolkata, Midnapore, North Bengal, Murshidabad, Burdwan, Bankura and other districts continued to affect OPDs, emergencies and other services. At Sagar Dutta Medical College Hospital in North 24 Parganas, 11 senior doctors submitted their resignation.
“Our principle demand is safety of doctors. The number of police posted on the hospital premises is not enough. Day before yesterday, two men assaulted a female colleague and threatened to attack us with acid. The emergency unit in the college is open. We’ll continue to protest till the state government assures us security,” said Pulastya Acharyya, a student of Midnapore Medical College and Hospital.
At NRS Medical College, even as junior doctors agitated, outsiders including relatives of patients blocked the road in front and lobbed stones at the hospital.