Tribune News Service
New Delhi, June 14
Protests over Tuesday’s assault on junior doctors in West Bengal spread across the country today with health services being disrupted and Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan appealing to medical professionals to return to work.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) launched an agitation in solidarity with the Bengal doctors and announced a nationwide strike on Monday, demanding a central law on safety of medical professionals at workplaces and against hospital violence.
IMA president Ramesh Datta said non-essential services would remain suspended as part of the Monday strike but casualty, emergency, and trauma services would remain available. After doctors took to mass resignations in West Bengal today following Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s allegations of political motive behind the agitation, Vardhan urged the CM not to stand on ego. The Bengal doctors are demanding Banerjee’s unconditional apology after she served them an ultimatum to return to work by today.
Vardhan, after meeting Resident Doctors’ Associations of AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, United Resident and Doctors Association of India (URDA) and Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA), here, said he would write to Banerjee and other CMs to ensure safety for doctors and would also discuss the matter with the Home Minister.
Vardhan, while ruing the threatening tone Banerjee used for protesting doctors, said instead of assuaging the feelings of protesting doctors, she threatened them back.
“Their anger is natural. Today IMA, Delhi Medical Association and other resident doctors’ bodies have given a call to disrupt medical services. The situation is bad. I am against strikes by doctors but I do agree that a safe work environment for medical professionals is a non-negotiable. To this end, I promise to speak with the Home Minister about what can be done and also to states to ensure doctors’ safety,” Vardhan said.
The IMA cited past instances of assaults on doctors to say they will not take their agitation back until the Centre promised a law to ensure doctor safety, besides guaranteeing security in hospitals and medical colleges.
“The law against hospital violence is a must. Already 19 states have laws on safety for doctors but there should be a Central law which is binding on every state. It has become routine for patients’ families to assault doctors when they want. Doctors cannot work in such a threatening environment,” IMA’s Datta said.
Doctors across India held demonstrations and absented themselves from work to express solidarity with their Bengal counterparts. In Bengal, 13 major government hospitals were badly affected.
In Delhi, too, private OPDs in major hospitals remained closed and patients suffered.
Bengal saw mass resignations by around 300 doctors from hospitals in Kolkata, Darjeeling, North 24 Parganas and Burdwan. They have demanded an unconditional apology from the CM to end their strike, which entered its fourth day today with no end in sight.
The Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare also expressed solidarity with the protesters, asking Mamata Banerjee to listen to the grievances of the agitating professionals.
The protests were triggered on Tuesday after the family whose relative died assaulted two junior doctors at NRS Medical College and Hospital in West Bengal.
Their anger is natural. But doctors should resort to other simple and symbolic ways to protest. Patients should not be deprived of immediate and emergency facilities. I appeal to doctors to return to work. — Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union health minister