The snowballing agitation by doctors across West Bengal showed no signs of abating Friday as medicos refused to meet Mamata Banerjee after she invited them for a meeting at the state secretariat to resolve the impasse, PTI reported.
Earlier today, the agitating doctors had placed six conditions and demanded an unconditional apology from the state chief minister for withdrawing their stir.
The agitation has spilled over to other parts of the country as the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the country’s leading doctors’ body, has called for a nationwide strike on June 17 to express their solidarity with protesting doctors in Bengal.
The strike, which has entered the fourth day, is to protest the attack on two junior doctors at a government-run hospital in Kolkata. They have been on strike after angry relatives of a patient who died in the Nilratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital were joined by neighbours and local residents as they barged in and beat up doctors, injuring two of them.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan appealed to the West Bengal Chief Minister to “not make it a prestige issue” and assured doctors across the country that the government is “committed to ensuring their safety”.
Mamata Banerjee cries foul, accuses ‘outsiders’ and BJP
The junior doctors’ strike in Bengal has hit services in state government-run hospitals as the stir has affected emergency wards, outdoor facilities and pathological units of various hospitals.
During a visit to one of the hospitals Wednesday, CM Banerjee had warned the striking doctors and set a 2pm deadline for them to resume work on Thursday. Defying the ultimatum, they continued with the protests.
Continuing her attack, Banerjee today, while addressing a workers’ rally, said she had seen some outsiders inside the SSKM Hospital premises raising slogans against the government.
“I had rightly said yesterday that there were outsiders involved in yesterday’s incident. I had seen some outsiders who were raising slogans there,” Banerjee said referring to her visit to SSKM Hospital Thursday in a bid to end the strike by doctors. She had accused the BJP and the CPM of engineering the strike and playing “Hindu-Muslim politics”.
Doctors put their foot down, hold protests, tender resignations
Over 100 senior doctors of various state-run hospitals in West Bengal tendered their resignation, officials said, PTI reported.
Around 4,500 resident doctors in Maharashtra, including some 2,800 in Mumbai, went on a one-day strike. The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) had declared that junior doctors at government hospitals in the state will not perform surgeries or attend to out-patient departments (OPDs) between 8 am and 5 pm Friday.
In Hyderabad and other places in Telangana, Junior doctors staged protests against the assault at major state-run hospitals, including Gandhi hospital and Osamania General hospital in the city, P S Vijayender, a leader of the junior doctors association in Telangana, said.
In Jaipur, doctors at the SMS government hospital wore black bands and helmets to express solidarity with their protesting colleagues in West Bengal. Doctors from other districts of Rajasthan also took part in the token protest, according to a report. In Raipur, around 400 junior doctors of Dr B R Ambedkar Memorial Hospital, Raipur – the biggest government hospital in the state – staged a protest from 8 am to 2 pm in premises of the medical facility.
The services at the state-run Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) at Panaji and its facilities across the state were partially affected Friday as several doctors went on a one-day strike.
In Chandigarh, over 1,200 resident doctors at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) held a demonstration to express solidarity with their protesting counterparts in Kolkata. In Coimbatore, over 100 doctors staged a dharna in front of the government hospital to protest against the assault of a junior doctor in Kolkata.
Calcutta High Court’s intervention
The Calcutta High Court Friday refused to pass an interim order on the ongoing strike by junior doctors across hospitals in the state. A PIL was filed in the High Court by doctor Kunal Saha seeking the strike to be declared illegal, however, the court sought details from the Banerjee-led government over the alleged attacks on doctors. It gave time till June 21 to present its case and asked the state government to persuade the striking doctors to resume work and provide services to patients.
IMA calls for nationwide protest
The Indian Medical Association (IMA), which is the country’s leading doctors’ body, has called for a nationwide strike on Monday i.e. June 17. The apex body of doctors has renewed its demand for a central law to check violence against healthcare workers in hospitals and said it should have a provision for a minimum of seven-year-jail sentence for violators.
“IMA condemns the recent incident of violence against Dr Paribaha Mukherjee who was brutally attacked by a violent mob at NRS Medical College, Kolkata and demands an exemplary action by the state government. All the legitimate demands of the resident doctors in West Bengal should be accepted unconditionally,” RV Asokan, Secretary General of IMA, said.
The Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare today also appealed to the Bengal government to act speedily to acknowledge the concerns of the junior doctors, and take stern action against the perpetrators of violence to ensure a safe environment for doctors.
Further, the Delhi Medical Association also called for a ‘total medical bandh’ as resident doctors of AIIMS and Safdarjung hospital held demonstrations today.
Union Health Minister’s take on the stir
In the wake of protests by the medical fraternity in Kolkata, Delhi doctors met Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan today.
Hours after the meeting, the health minister wrote to West Bengal Chief Minister requesting her “to personally intervene into the issue to resolve the current impasse at the earliest”. In the letter, he has also suggested providing a safe working environment for the doctors in the state.
Union Health Minister @drharshvardhan writes to @MamataOfficial requesting her to intervene and resolve the issue at the earliest. He has also suggested to provide safe working environment to the doctors in West Bengal@IndianExpress pic.twitter.com/7kyISYrrOU
— Astha Saxena (@Asthasaxena88) June 14, 2019
Vardhan had earlier urged Mamata Banerjee to ensure an “amicable end” to the stir. He also appealed to the agitating doctors to hold symbolic protests and resume work so that patients do not suffer.
“Doctors should resort to other simple and symbolic ways of protest. As medical professionals, their duty is towards protecting the rights of their patients. Strike is certainly not the best way to protest. Patients should not be deprived of immediate and emergency healthcare facilities,” he said.
Tried to contact Mamata, received no response: Bengal governor
West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi Friday said that he called up Mamata Banerjee to discuss the ongoing issue of junior doctors’ strike but received no response from her. Tripathi also paid a visit to injured junior doctor Paribaha Mukhopadhyay at the hospital where he is undergoing treatment.
“I have tried to contact the chief minister. I have called her up. Till this moment there is no response from her. If she calls me, we will discuss the matter,” news agency PTI quoted Mukhopadhyay as saying at the hospital. Tripathi had met representatives of the doctors on Thursday.