Signaling a way forward to resolve their face-off with the West Bengal government, the junior doctors on strike for the sixth day in the state sought an “immediate end to this impasse” and said Sunday that they have decided to leave the choice of venue for talks to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The doctors, however, demanded that the venue should accommodate representatives from all medical college hospitals and the media. So far, the doctors had insisted that Banerjee visit them at NRS Medical College and Hospital for talks.
Sources in the government said the meeting is likely to be held at the state secretariat Monday afternoon. They said that the latest offer by the doctors still leaves two major points of contention: presence of media at the talks and the number of representatives that can be allowed on behalf of the doctors.
“The administration is not keen on allowing mediapersons to cover the meeting. Secondly, while the junior doctors want five representatives from each of the 13 medical college hospitals, the government wants one from each. Ultimately, the government may settle for two representatives each,” sources said.
The latest decision by the agitating doctors comes a day after they refused to meet the Chief Minister at the state secretariat. The doctors had earlier refused to attend meetings called by Banerjee on Friday and Saturday.
On Sunday, the doctors met for four hours at the NRS Medical College and Hospital. “The last media interview of the Chief Minister (on Saturday evening) had a lot of discrepancies and was full of false propaganda of our protests. We want an immediate end to this impasse with discussions with the honourable Chief Minister, which should maintain transparency and not behind closed doors but in front of the media,” they said in a press release.
“We believe that the decision to choose the venue for the meeting with our delegates should lie with the Chief Minister but it should accommodate representatives from all medical colleges and media. We hope that our honourable Chief Minister would be considerate and do something to help the health care system,” it said.
“We leave it to the Chief Minister to choose the venue. We are ready to talk. We hope this discussion will be arranged and Chief Minister will consider our demands which will help restart medical facilities,” the statement said.
The agitation was triggered by an attack on June 10 on two doctors at the NRS hospital allegedly by neighbours and relatives of a patient who died. Since then, the strike called by doctors has affected most health services, including at OPDs, in state-run hospitals — a number of doctors have also resigned from service.