NEW DELHI: Healthcare services were severely affected across the country on Monday as doctors wearing helmets and forming human chains went on a strike in solidarity with their protesting colleagues in West Bengal. Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, meanwhile, said that the government will “revisit” the issue of drafting a central law regarding the safety of medicos at healthcare facilities. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) had given the nationwide call to withdraw non-emergency healthcare services after junior doctors in West Bengal went on a strike against a brutal attack on their colleagues by the relatives of a patient who died during treatment.
Patients and their relatives, caught unaware of the strike, were seen waiting outside various hospitals, appealing to authorities for help as out-patient departments (OPD) remained closed and scheduled surgeries were postponed in many government and private hospitals across the country. Emergency services, however, remained operational.
In the national capital, doctors at government and many private hospitals boycotted work and staged protests. Doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), who had earlier decided not to go on strike, too joined the stir after their colleague was allegedly manhandled by a patient’s attendants. Members of several resident doctors associations also took out marches on their campuses to lodge protest.
Many patients were aware of the stir on Monday which came after many doctors in Delhi had boycotted work and held demonstrations on Friday and Saturday, but many still turned up at the facilities only to be turned away or wait for long hours.
According to IMA, more than 40,000 doctors in Maharashtra boycotted work. In Goa too, doctors observed the strike and took out a ‘silent protest march’ to condemn the attack on some of their colleagues in West Bengal. Similar reports came in from other states, including Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.
Dr Vardhan said that the government will revisit this problem and see if it can do something at the central level about drafting any such law.
“It was visited earlier by our law people. This is not a Centre versus state issue, while stressing that the safety of doctors was not debatable. Doctors should not be beaten by anybody in the premises of the hospital or outside and there is no difference of opinion on this,” the health minister told reporters outside Parliament.
Asked if any proposal on drafting a cental law in this regard can come up in this session of Parliament, Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “This is not something that can be made overnight. It will obviously require time to study. I have to get old records. This matter had come up in 2017 also and deliberations had taken place.