New Delhi: Patients in the national capital faced a harrowing time as resident doctors at several government hospitals went on strike and withdrew all services, including those at the emergency department, to protest against a key legislation that seeks to regulate the medical education sector.
Hundreds of doctors at several government hospitals, including AIIMS, RML Hospital, Safdarjung Hospital, and LNJP Hospital, boycotted work, held marches, and raised slogans to protest against the National Medical Commission Bill which is currently under discussion at the Rajya Sabha. They have also threatened to continue their strike for an indefinite period if the bill is passed.
The bill, which seeks to replace the graft-tainted Medical Council of India (MCI), received the nod from Lok Sabha on July 29.
Protests by resident doctors and undergraduate students of AIIMS and Safdarjung Hospital hit traffic on the stretch of road between Ring Road and Parliament as they tried to march towards Parliament. They were detained by police.
Another group of doctors, associated with the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA), who had planned to march to Parliament from RML Hospital, were prevented from venturing out, FORDA’s general secretary Dr Sunil Arora claimed.
The emergency departments and ICUs at many hospitals were managed with the help of faculty members, sponsored residents, pool officers, faculty members of other medical or surgical departments, while OPDs, radio-diagnosis and laboratory diagnosis services functioned on a “restricted basis” in some health facilities and were shut at many other places.
Hospitals in the national capital put in place contingency plans as regular services were severely affected. The medical fraternity is opposing the bill saying it is “anti-poor, anti-student, and undemocratic.” The Indian Medical Association, which has also expressed reservations over several sections of the bill, had given a call for a 24-hour withdrawal of non-essential services on Wednesday across the country.
In a statement it has warned the government of intensifying the agitation if the grievances of the medical fraternity are not addressed. The bill provides for setting up of a National Medical Commission in place of the MCI for development and regulation of all aspects of medical education, profession, and institutions.
The fraternity is opposing Section 32(1), (2), and (3) of the bill saying it will encourage quackery by providing licence to practice modern medicine as community health providers for persons other than those possessing MBBS degree.
They expressed uncertainty over the introduction of NEXT and scrapping the NEET-PG. They are also opposing decreasing the percentage of seats under controlled fees structure in private medical colleges and deemed universities from 85 to 50 per cent.