OBSERVING that doctors cannot afford to go on strike given the significance of their profession, the Bombay High Court Thursday asked resident doctors who have been on strike since Monday to resume duty immediately even while agreeing that the conditions they work in may be “constrained”. If doctors return to work immediately, no punitive action should be taken against them under expulsion and suspension notices served by government and the BMC, the court added.
The court further said that all issues regarding this matter could be resolved “amicably” between the state and the doctors. “Please go back to work,” said Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, pointing out that patients were suffering. “I saw a mother holding her child outside a hospital on television,” she added.
The president and the secretary of Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), meanwhile, gave an assurance to the court that they would resume work immediately and would circulate the court’s orders once they got a copy.
“It is brought to our notice that certain action is initiated by hospital management. We are of the opinion that the present situation has to be resolved amicably and not through adjudication,” said the Chief Justice.
To address the concerns of the doctors, the Chief Justice said she would monitor the situation every fortnight and the members of MARD could place their grievances accordingly. The matter has been kept on March 6.
Appearing for the state, Advocate General Rohit Deo informed court it would provide 1,100 additional armed security personnel from the Maharashtra State Security Corporation. “While 500 personnel will be available from April 5 in Mumbai, the remaining 600 will be deployed by April 30,” he said.
According to him, only 92 doctors had returned to duty.
Advocate Rahul Totla, representing MARD, pointed out that despite norms stating that only two visitors of a patient should be allowed inside at any point, the same was not being adhered to. “Needless to say, the same should be implemented immediately,” said the court, adding that doctors will also not have balance of mind to treat patients if relatives stand around like “watchdogs”.
The Bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice G S Kulkarni also suggested setting up of a committee to look into security concerns and the living and working conditions of doctors. “We intend to set up a committee which will evaluate security and other requirements of each institution. It will be headed by a retired Director General,” said Deo.
The court also questioned why the doctors had waited for more incidents to occur to approach court when the matter was before the court since 2015. MARD said the existing committee was formed to look into limited aspects, prompting the court to suggest the formation of a new committee.
Deo said the attacks on doctors was a social problem and not a law and order problem.