The seven-day old strike by junior doctors and ‘cease work’ in the state-run medical colleges and hospitals in the state was called off on Monday evening after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accepted their demands and told a delegation that “we are proud of our doctors”, and that any attack on them “will not be tolerated”.
“We are happy with the meeting. We had been requesting the authorities to agree to a discussion with the students from the very first day. Had the Chief Minister agreed to this earlier, the patients would have suffered less. We will also request the patients’ families to not do anything that can trigger a similar situation in future. We view this step as a positive one,” said a junior doctor from the protest ground who didn’t wish to be named.
“This meeting proves how eager we have been to get back to work. Else, we wouldn’t have made the compromises. Our demand was that the CM must come to NRS. We always want to provide services to the patients,” said another doctor.
“For so long, the students have only been demanding that the Chief Minister listens to their problems. We will also be happy to see them get back to work,” a faculty member, who had been supporting this movement from the very beginning, said on condition of anonymity.
Though the impasse is over, many doctors are still apprehensive if the promises will be met.
“I was assaulted by family members of a patient last year when I was working as an intern. Though the strike has been called off, we aren’t very hopeful. However, the CM heard us and hopefully some steps will be taken. Only time will tell,” said Pritam Rahman, a house physician at NRS. “The CM changed her stance from calling us ‘bohiragoto’ (outsider) to ‘lokkhi chhele’ (good boy). Let’s see if assurances stay only on paper or the administration walks the talk,” he added.
Another doctor also said that they are “partly satisfied with the meeting as some very essential demands have not been met”. “She couldn’t assure us if enough doctors will be provided,” he said.
The reference to protesting doctors as “outsiders” by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at SSKM was a major cause of angst among the protesting doctors. The representatives even shouted slogans while on their way to Nabanna, the state secretariat, Monday.
Asking the doctor to resume work, Banerjee had said, “Some of them are not junior doctors but outsiders. If they do not withdraw protest and resume regular work within four hours, we’ll review their profiles.”
“We think she (CM) dodged most of the demands with vague response,” said Sayantan Basu, a housestaff at NRS. “The CM played a very nice game to suppress the chaotic situation. Nothing will be implemented. She just delivered false promises,” said another final-year student of Calcutta Medical College, who didn’t wish to be named.
The end of the strike came as a big relief to hundreds of patients as health services were paralysed across the state for a week.“My two-month-old baby has been suffering from stomach ache for the past three days. We are waiting here for treatment. Hopefully, now our wait will be over,” said Jamal, who has come from Malda.
“The government hospitals have insufficient number of doctors. The strike added to the problem. We hope to get better services now,” said Samir Saha, whose wife was admitted to the hospital throughout the week of the strike.
(Shriya Dasgupta is an intern with The Indian Express)