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‘Resident doctors being mentally harassed’

| RUPSA CHAKRABORTY
Published : Apr 2, 2016, 3:57 am IST
Updated : Apr 2, 2016, 3:57 am IST

BJP’s national executive member Shaina NC met the state education minister Vinod Tawde on Friday morning to discuss the ‘inhuman’ condition of post-graduation students who are made to work for 18 hour

Post-graduate students of JJ Hospital Department of Ophthalmology Mumbai and Shaina NC (centre)
 Post-graduate students of JJ Hospital Department of Ophthalmology Mumbai and Shaina NC (centre)

BJP’s national executive member Shaina NC met the state education minister Vinod Tawde on Friday morning to discuss the ‘inhuman’ condition of post-graduation students who are made to work for 18 hours at the ophthalmology department of JJ Hospital. This is not the first time that the students have raised the issue, but they claim that so far nothing has been done to address the issue.

Last year, a post-graduation medical student from the orthopaedic department of KEM Hospital tried to commit suicide by slashing his wrists. He did so not because of a failed love affair or family problems, but because of his work stress. He had been working for 30 hours at a stretch and would get hardly three to four hours of sleep and could not even eat properly. The work stress led to depression that eventually resulted in him committing suicide.

In a study conducted at a city tertiary municipal hospital by Pavithra Rajan, monitoring and evaluation officer research from TISS, it was revealed that 80 per cent of post-graduation students suffer from stress as they have to perform extra duties.

Anita Aggarwal (name changed) a post-graduation student from the Ophthalmology department of JJ Hospital, the biggest government hospital in Maharashtra, has been falling sick almost regularly. She even lost seven kilograms in the past one year, since the time she joined the course, due to work-related stress.

“We work for 18 hours continuously every day. We don’t get the time to eat or sleep. We prescribe patients to take nutritious foods but we ourselves don’t eat it. This makes us weak and vulnerable to diseases,” she said.

Despite the students’ repeated complaints and requests to higher authorities, nothing has been done to address the matter yet. Now, in order to ensure that their voices are heard, students from the department, under the leadership of Shaina NC, met the state education minister Vinod Tawde on Friday.

Ms Shaina claimed that the resident doctors at the department are ‘mentally harassed’ for being made to work for 18 hours at a stretch. “This has been going for the past two years. Students have approached the higher authorities, but all have turned a deaf ear to their cries,” said she claimed.

The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (Mard) too has filed a compliant with the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission (MHRC) regarding resident doctors being made to work for more than 30 hours at a stretch. S.R. Bannurmath, chairman of MHRC said that doctors are being exploited by being made to work for such long hours. “I would not be able to say much about it until we process the documents, but working for 30-36 hours at a stench for any human being is exploitation. We will pass the appropriate order after due discussion and deliberations.”

This is also a gross violation of the order of the Supreme Court in 1987 that made it mandatory that resident doctors should not work for more than 48 hours a week. The International Labor Organisation recommendations prohibit more than 48 hours of work each week since 1962. Even the Factories Act of India has provisions for payment of overtime and holidays for work more than 48 hours a week.

Despite repeated attempts, Dr Pravin Shingare, director, Directorate for Medical Education and Research (DMER) could not be contacted. However, in reply to explanation sought by SHRC, in a letter the DMER stated, “If doctors are on call for 48 hours it does not mean that they are working at a stretch for all the hours. Their interpretation is wrong on the contrary doctors demand more hospital work in order to acquire clinical experience.”

Commenting on the matter, Dr Sagar Mundada, president of central Mard said, “When a person works for 18 hours, his mental condition becomes equal to that of an inebriated person. When the person is made to work for more than 24 hours at a stretch, due to exhaustion, his mental alertness goes below the limit of alcohol intake sanctioned by law while driving a car,” said Dr Mundada. “In a profession where we have to always be alert, how can we work with such mental stress This is also a violation of patients’ rights,” he said.

In Maharashtra there are around 4,000 resident doctors for 14 government-run medical colleges. However, they are made to work for long hours with no proper diet that make them susceptible to infections. “Every year due to lack of nutrition and inadequate sleeping hours, many resident doctors fall prey to infections as their immunity levels drop,” said Dr Mundada.

Also, according to medical students, due to long working hours, they are unable to pay attention to their research work.

An article ‘Overwork Among Residents in India: A Medical Resident’s Perspective’ published in Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care stated, “This high workload leads to poor performance and tendency to make mistakes which can be fatal in a medical environment. While often there is a lack of support from senior colleagues and faculty, who justify excessive work as tradition of good training process.”

Dr T.P. Lahane, dean of JJ Hospital, refuted all allegations. He said, “A few days ago, due to wrong diagnosis of a doctor from the department, a patient got a cardiac attack. Now to hide his fault, he is trying to put the hospital in wrong light so a few doctors have approached the minister. They are making false allegations to save themselves .”