At JJ Hospital, an ophthamology student says it’s a “do or die situation” for the 450 resident doctors, who continued their strike for the fifth day. They say they will end it only if the hospital’s dean, Dr TP Lahane, is transferred or sent on leave. “Either he will leave or we will work under his fear,” claimed the student.
On Thursday, the ophthamology department at JJ, which generally attends to over 500 patients daily in its out-patient department, operated only 24 patients. Generally bustling with patients from across the state, the entire campus was quiet with all resident doctors in their hostel rooms and patients being forced to visit other government hospitals.
“A lot of surgeries, except the urgent ones, have been postponed,” said Dr Parameshwar Satpathy, president of JJ Hospital’s Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD). With the agitation intesifying, 4,500 resident doctors from across the state will now join the indefinite strike from Friday against Lahane and ophthamology department head Dr Ragini Parekh, who has been sent on leave following an order by education minister Vinod Tawde. According to second year student Priyanka Singh, students in the ophthamology department are not allowed to perform major eye surgeries, including cataract and are forced to perform clerical jobs of filing documents and preparing patients for surgery. “We have also been verbally abused,” she said.
Another student, Wafi Ansari, said that ophthamology students in KEM Hospital are allowed to perform cataract surgery in the first year. “Here, we do not even know how to conduct surgery on our own,” he said. Denying all allegations made by the students, Parekh told The Indian Express, “The patients come from far to get operated by Lahane or me. We cannot allow students to perform the entire surgery if they don’t have a steady hand. In case of the eye, the patient may lose their sight.” She said that cataract procedures are mostly operated by either her or Lahane but students are allowed to participate in stages and perform minor procedures. On the cataract register the hospital maintains, all surgeries are either under Parekh’s name or Lahane’s. But since Sunday, with resident doctors unavailable and Laane and Parekh forced to not conduct surgery, the hospitals’ 500 weekly surgeries suffered a setback. Resident doctors have now demanded Lahane’s temporary removal until an inquiry into complaints of students from the ophthamology department is over. The decision to act against Lahane, who has been the dean since 2010, materialised after the night of April 1, when nine students from the ophthamology department knocked on the door of the hospital’s MARD president pleading for help. “We have been hearing about their issues with the department head for a long time,” said Satpathy. JJ’s ophthamology department has 12 doctors on protest while six third year doctors are preparing for exams. According to students, this is the first time such a strong stand has been taken agains the dean. With a huge hap in doctors, patients are now being transferred to Nair hospital for treatment. With the state joining the strike however, healthcare services in government hospitals are set to be hit on Friday. On Thursday, legislative council chairman Ramraje Nimbalkar said, “Considering a patient’s importance, the government should enforce MESMA against striking doctors.”