A clash broke out at Nil Ratan Sircar (NRS) Medical College and Hospital after an 80-year-old patient died on Monday night. Relatives of deceased Mohammad Syed, a resident of Tangra area in Kolkata, allegedly attacked the doctors, alleging negligence on part of the doctors. Following the clash, two junior doctors were critically injured. A large number of policemen were deployed at the spot and five relatives of the deceased were arrested.
Declaring a ceasework, the interns and junior doctors locked the two gates of NRS hospital, preventing patients and their relatives from entering or leaving the premises, and also did not release the body of the deceased. The Out-Patient Department (OPD) and Emergency services were completely shut for the entire day on Tuesday. All OPDs of government and private hospitals will also remain shut on Wednesday, as part of the protest by the doctors’ forum.
To express solidarity, junior doctors of other state-run medical colleges and hospitals, including Calcutta Medical College, Murshidabad Medical College, Kalyani Medical College and Sagar Dutta Hospital, staged a protest. They too kept the OPDs shut for the day. Patients visiting the OPDs of various hospitals in the city were inconvenienced due to the protest.
Standing outside the NRS, a man waited to receive the body of a patient. “My friend who was in the hospital died in the morning. One member of the family somehow entered the hospital, but rest of us are still waiting on the road waiting. Imagine the condition of his family members who have been standing here for the last three hours. How can they shut the entrance gate,” said Shayak Majumdar.
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Marathon meetings were held in presence of Commissioner of Police Anuj Sharna, West Bengal Medical Education Department Director Dr Pradip Kumar Mitra, Minister of State for Health Chandrima Bhattacharya and other representatives.
Unsuccessfully, Mitra tried to convince the junior doctors to withdraw the protest. Bhattacharya also visited the hospital, but could not resolve the issue. The protesters raised slogans against police officials inside the premises and refused to withdraw their protest demanding better security.
“We are talking to them. We will appreciate if they withdraw their agitation and resume work as patients are suffering,” Bhattacharya told reporters.
The ruckus began on Monday night after Syed was admitted to the hospital on June 9 with complaints of vomiting and severe headache. On Monday, he was declared dead by the hospital authorities. “The family kept requesting the hospital authorities to look into the deteriorating condition of the patient, but there was no doctor in the ward. Finally he was given an injection, after which he didn’t gain his consciousness back. The doctors then declared him dead,” said a family member of the deceased on condition of anonymity.
Sources said 11 relatives of the deceased surrounded the on-duty doctors and allegedly misbehaved. A group-D staff of the hospital, who claimed to be present at the time of the incident, said: “The family members accused the doctors of murder and used abusive language. The doctors in return demanded an apology and decided to release the body only after an apology. Soon, a matador-full of local residents from Tangra area reached the hospital, which made the situation worse.”
Sources said a large number of people barged into the hospital and a clash took place. The mob also pelted the junior doctors with stones.
“Two interns received injury. One of the injured, Paribaha Mukerjee, is undergoing treatment at Institute of Neuroscience. He was hit by stones and his skull bone was fractured. The other injured, Yash Tekwani, has been admitted to NRS. We understand that the patients are having tough time. But no one has the right to take law into their hands. If they were not satisfied with the treatment, there is a set procedure for redressal. One cannot attack the junior doctors every time there is a death in the hospital,” Utpal Banerjee, Assistant Professor of the Orthopaedic Department of NRS, told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, Residents Doctors’ Association and All India Institute of Medical Sciences have condemned the attack. “We are grieved and enraged at the exasperating indifference and inaction of the West Bengal State Health Ministry and Kolkata Police have failed repeatedly to provide security to the junior doctors. Any knee-jerk reaction or further actions by the state if deemed inappropriate or not commensurate with the amount of seriousness this incident demands, shall lead to an unprecedented nationwide protest,” read a statement issued by the Residents Doctors’ Association.
However, People for Better Treatment, a registered society fighting for a better healthcare system called “it unlawful”. An official statement issued by the organisation said: “It has come to our notice that a large section of doctors in your hospital has started a strike/cease work that has disrupted regular hospital services. As a result, innocent patients coming from long distances remain stranded without treatment. Doctors’ strike on any ground is wrong both morally and legally.”