Nagpur: Central Bazar Road, Ramdaspeth has a deserted look today. A hub of Multi Specialty Hospitals and Consulting Chambers of well known Nagpur Doctors it is silent today since all Doctors are on strike.
Moreover, it is not a strike for a day or two but indefinitely, till Government and law enforcement agencies including courts do not take cognizance of repeated violent attacks and threats against Medicos seriously and take strict action.
The private practitioners are striking in support of the 1,200 Resident Doctors who have been suspended by the Govt. after they continued the strike despite High Court orders. The number of Residents suspended in Nagpur is 440.
In the PIL against striking residents of Govt. hospitals the court had opined :
“If you (doctors) do not want to work, then resign. You are not factory workers who resort to such protests. Shame on you. How can doctors behave in such a manner?” asked Chief Justice Chellur. The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by social activist Afak Mandaviya.
Mandaviya’s lawyer, Datta Mane, said the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) had assured the high court last year that doctors would not agitate in the future.
“If that is the case, the protesting doctors have committed contempt. The hospitals concerned should initiate action against them,” the court replied.
The anger seething Resident Doctors exploded as another female Doctor of Sion Hospital, a Senior Medical Officer in the Pediatric ward was roughed up by a child’s relative after he refused treatment prescribed and in response Doctor tried another course of action. Instead of understanding and appreciating this, the relatives abused her, physically and verbally too.
“She was abused in such filthy language that it was very shocking and totally unacceptable. We “, ( a group of Resident Doctors) ” were with her whole night in the Police station registering an FIR. The process was completed only at 7 a.m. and we are in the hospital at 9 a.m.”
Though many Residents are physically present in their hospitals they are still reluctant to join work despite Court’s re assurance today that adequate security would be provided within 15 days.
“We have heard such assurances before. If they had been implemented, incidents of Sholapur, Thane and Mumbai would not have happened” say the protesting doctors. (After the grievous attack on Residents, one junior Doctor lost his eye sight in one eye and another had severe fractures.)
It is learnt that the state government has already taken the harsh action of throwing Resident Doctors out of their Hostels in Sion.
State wide IMA strike declared on question of Security
Instead of the government action and High Court order diffusing the tension, the strike has escalated with most private practitioners of the state and Nagpur also joining the agitation.
Members of IMA had decided in a meeting held last evening that Hospitals, OPDs and Dispensaries too would close indefinitely in support of MARD.
“We are forming squads of Doctors who will go around and persuade the few Docs who haven’t joined the strike to close down too” said one Orthopedic surgeon speaking to Nagpur Today ” the entire profession will be united against such ill treatment and threats to our lives.”
Nagpur Today spoke to some city Doctors to gauge their mood. This is what they said:
Dr. Avinash Pophali leading Hematologist and Director of CIIHO (Central India Institute of Hematology and Oncology) said he would not be attending his hospital today. “I am on strike. We will be holding meetings with each other the whole day to unite on a joint course of action.”
Dr. Dilip Dhande, Gastroenterologist , who went to his clinic as usual at 8.30 a.m. returned home as soon as heard about the strike. England trained and experienced, Dilip who is usually very soft spoken, could not help giving vent to his feelings.
“The atmosphere against doctors has been so vitiated in the country that even a non controversial, considerate Doctor like me has been targeted. All my patients know I do not prescribe many diagnostic tests, give minimal medicines and ensure that my bills never go over Rs. one lakh as to not burden poor people. If a patient comes with a hopeless prognosis, I advise his/ her relatives to take him back home instead of spending more money on futile treatment.
Yet, few weeks back the female patients of one patient who unfortunately passed away despite our best efforts to save him began vandalizing my Nursing Home and began throwing things around and shouting. We had to close down the hospital for a few hours due to the ruckus and till they had taken the body away.
Later when they came for the Death Certificate I asked them why they had behaved in this fashion.
‘We did not have money to pay your bills. If the patient had lived he would have managed the payment somehow but we were at a loss, so we got worked up’ said a female relative.
This is not the way to express your feelings. You should have just told me your problem, I would have helped.
But we were told by everyone to vandalize the hospital to escape making payment, the women confessed. They were from Hingna.
Is this what you Media have taught people?” Asked a bitter Dr. Dhande.
Dr. Rajesh Swarnakar, Pulmonologist and Director of Getwell Hospital said they would not be seeing any patients in their OPD or admitting new patients. In house patients will continue being looked after.
“If an emergency patient comes requiring urgent treatment we will not turn him away on humanitarian grounds. But we will not charge him since we are on strike.” Said Rajesh.
Opinion is divided on what to do with emergency patients. Many Doctors are of the view that a strike means completely shut down and they should not attend any patient, directing them to go to Government hospitals instead, some Doctors, specially from branches like Cardiology feel that emergencies must be entertained.
Dr. Nikunj Pawar, Cardiothoracic Surgeon practising in Platina Heart Hospital opines that serious patients must be offered treatment despite the strike.
“However badly people may behave with us, we cannot overlook our duty to save lives! But violence against Doctors must be dealt with strictly.
We should follow the Australian example where there is a board in a hospital ” Lost your temper in a hospital? Regain it at leisure in a prison for 14 years!”
Dr. Uday Bodhankar, senior Pediatrician, is also on strike and says Government must be more serious about protecting doctors.
“Not a single attacker has been punished since 2010 since the Govt. enacted Maharashtra Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions Act.
This speaks volumes about the government’s and police apathy in this matter. ”
Dr. Pradeep and Dr. Swati Barad who together run the Barad Hospital said they would adhere to the strike strictly.
“Small Hospitals such as ours do not have the luxury of being able to hire costly Security Services like Corporate Hospital can” says Pradeep, an Orthopedic surgeon. “If we do so, our costs of running the hospital and therefore cost of patient care will also go up and people will accuse us of being mercenary. As it is” he says ” I have become very cautious about operating on high risk patients such as old persons and patients with Cardiac history. Earlier I would operate on them successfully in my own hospital, now I may have to ask them to get admit in a hospital with ICCU facilities in the case of a hypothetical emergency during operation.
At this rate, small hospitals like mine will have to close down in a few years and only Corporate and expensive hospitals will survive.”
Dr. Varun Bhargava M.D. of Care Hospital also confirmed that his OPD was closed and would remain so till IMA instructs.
“But I am talking to them (IMA) and am of the opinion that we must form a Trust to address the issue and educate Media and people at large about the crucial service we provide and what conditions we work under. We must create an atmosphere of mutual understanding and empathy, long term confrontation is not the solution.”