Nearly 450 resident doctors attached with the JJ Group of Hospitals continued with their indefinite strike for the second day on Monday to protest against the ophthalmology department’s head Dr Ragini Parekh and hospital’s dean Dr T P Lahane, claiming both the senior doctors had been conducting major eye surgeries themselves without letting resident doctors gain any practical knowledge.
The strike was supported by the Medical Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), which regulates the resident doctors attached with the 14 medical colleges in the state.
On Monday, six patients were shifted to the BMC-run Nair hospital after medical staff shortage forced JJ hospital to seek help from the BMC to treat its patients. Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh admitted that the patients were transferred as a result of the strike.
“These patients were transferred after they were checked in to JJ hospital’s OPD. The hospital referred them to us,” said an assistant medical officer at Nair hospital.
With the strike entering its second day, the dean set up an inquiry committee Monday to look into the allegations made by the ophthalmology students. The resident doctors refused to meet the committee claiming it would remain biased as it was set up by Lahane himself.
According to the students’ allegations, both Lahane and Parekh perform all major surgeries, including cataract procedures. JJ conducts over 450 cataract procedures every week. In addition, the hospital receives 500 patients on out-patient department basis daily.
“In our post-graduation course, we are expected to perform major and minor eye surgeries as per the Medical Council of India guidelines. But till now I have only performed one minor surgery,” said Dr Priyanka Singh, a second year ophthalmology doctor, adding, “I am asked to just note patient’s history, keep a track of documents and provide post-operative care.”
Currently, there are 18 resident doctors attached with the JJ Hospital’s ophthalmology department. While first and second year students have chosen to bunk classes en mass, third year students have refrained from participation due to exams.
Smita Taur, a first year resident doctor, claimed that she had not performed a single surgery since joining the PG course. “I do not know how to make a diagnosis as we are not given any practical exposure,” she said. According to her, resident doctors are made to do “clerical work so that department head and dean can hold record for maximum surgeries”.
MARD’s JJ unit chief Dr Parmeshwar Satpathy held a meeting with the principal secretary, health, the Directorate of Medical Education and the research director to discuss the issue. “We demand that the dean and professor be removed,” he said. According to him, the strike will continue until the students’ demands are met.
Lahane, a Padma Shri recipient, is credited for performing over 1 lakh cataract surgeries before he took over as the hospital’s dean in 2010. Parekh, who was recently awarded by the women and child development department for being one of the top women achievers in India, has performed over 72,000 cataract surgeries. Both are known for the highest number of eye surgeries performed by individual doctors across India.
Refuting the students’ claims, Lahane claimed that three incidents of wrongful injection procedures by a few second year resident doctors had been noted in the recent past, which led to an inquiry against them. “In the third case, the injection became life threatening to the patient who is still in hospital,” he said, adding that students could only be allowed to perform surgery once they had a steady hand. “Together, one batch in ophthalmology has performed 790 eye surgeries. This hospital is providing more experience than mandated by the MCI guidelines,” he said.
Dr Parekh could not be reached for comments.
On Monday, the resident doctors also met Medical Education Minister Vinod Tawde. “We have asked them to discontinue the strike, and will carry a probe to see if the allegations are true,” said a senior official from the medical education department.