It has been a long wait for Malda resident Tajimul Haque and his ailing mother. The aisles of the SSKM Hospital has been their address for the last 30 hours after the OPDs were shut down due to doctors’ protest.
“My 75-year-old mother is a heart patient. We came to Kolkata around 1 pm on Tuesday, and the OPD was already closed by then. I had to spend the whole night with her in the hospital. They’re saying the doctors may come tomorrow. It is difficult for my mother to travel long distances in trains. So, we will wait here till tomorrow,” said Haque.
Like Haque, thousands of other patients across the state were left in the lurch following a strike called by junior doctors to protest the assault of two of their colleagues at the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital (NRS) on Tuesday. The agitation hit the healthcare services in the government-run medical colleges in Kolkata and several other parts of the state.
A few metres from the gate of Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital, 23-year-old cancer patient, Akhbar Hussain, waited to meet a doctor in the Out-Patient Department (OPD) on Wednesday. He was suffering from high fever for the last seven days.
“He is critically ill and the OPD is shut. I cannot go elsewhere as I have heard that the OPDs in other hospitals are also closed. If something happens to my brother, where will I go,” asked Asma Bibi.
Single mother Shiuli Ghorai also had a harrowing time. She had come for her four-year-old daughter’s check-up at the Chittaranjan National Medical College and Hospital. However, she had to return home with her daughter, who was suffering from a neurological problem, without any treatment and hope. “It is difficult to travel with the child every day. I’ll again come next week”, she said.
Family members of Samita Das from Baduria, who is four-month pregnant, seemed rather agitated. “We had come here yesterday, and was given an appointment today. When they knew that the departments will be closed today, then why did they make us go through this hassle?” Das’s her sister-in-law asked.
Not only were the OPDs shut, other services in the hospitals were also affected. Patients admitted in the hospital wards faced problems, and even the laboratory staff did not provide reports to a number of patients undergoing treatment.
“There is a gross impact on the services. Routine surgeries have been postponed,” an SSKM doctor said. Another doctor from Calcutta Medical College said, “Strike isn’t the solution. I support the junior doctors, but there should be a permanent solution. We must also think of those who are suffering because of us.”
(With inputs from Shriya Dasgupta)