EXCERPT FROM PRESS RELEASE DURING RESIDENT DOCTOR’S STRIKE IN 1999, INDICATING WAFT SUPPORT .
NOVEMBER 25: The state government today issued an order empowering deans of all government medical colleges to recruit specialist doctors on a contract basis to counter the resident doctors’ strike. Required on an urgent basis are: neurosurgeons, nephrologists and cardiologists among others. In lieu, the government has agreed to pay these superspecialists Rs 500 for every eight hours of work.
The government’s announcement comes a day after a resolution passed on Wednesday by The Welfare Association of Full-Time Teachers at Nair Hospital suggested that they might eventually call upon the authorities to close down the hospital as they were finding it difficult to cope. In view of the strike, which entered its fourth day today, teachers have been manning emergency services in the city’s municipal and government hositals.
T C Benjamin, secretary, state Medical Education and Drugs Department, told Express Newsline, that the move to hire doctors on contract was to ensure that superspeciality servicescould function smoothly. In the same breath, he added that health services in the city had not been really affected by the strike. A copy of this order has also been sent to Municipal Commissioner K Nalinakshan who could if he wished implement it in civic hospitals. In addition, the government has also requested the Ministry of Defence to dispatch reinforcements from the army medical corps.
Asked whether he saw any anamoly on spending on hiring these doctors rather than paying the residents more, Benjamin said that while the latter would incur an additional expenditure of Rs 25 crore per year, the sum spent on hiring doctors on contract was relatively meagre. “How much would paying each doctor Rs 500 entail,” he asked. “Anyway, social considerations are our utmost priority?”
In a climbdown from the earlier position, Dr V L Deshpande, State Director for Medical Education and Research, said the authorities have even offered a hike of 45 per cent to the resident doctors as opposed to the 20 per centoffer earlier and have agreed on a salary of Rs 7,000 for a junior resident. “It should be remembered that resident doctors are students and cannot be given the salary of a government employee,” he pointed out.
But the residents are in no mood to relent. At a morcha at Azad Maidan today, they stressed that nothing short of central pay parity will do, even if continuing the agitation meant rustication.
Addressing a gathering of about 400 resident doctors, the MARD organising secretary, Dr Rajas Deshpande, claimed the authorities were trying to misinform the public that the hospitals are running smoothly. “The deans are doing so for the love of their chair,” he said, adding that they had thus betrayed their own resident doctors and no longer commanded their respect. He also said that the government had implemented the Fifth Pay Commission scales for medical teachers to prevent them from going on strike. “The timing is not a coincidence,” he added.
Patients continued to be a casualty of thisconflict. Outpatients departments of most hospitals were virtually empty and only emergency cases were admitted to the wards. A senior doctor from St George’s Hospital admitted that even though they have been told to maintain services, the fact was that there was a complete collapse of patient care.
And if the government is not feeling the pinch of the resident doctors’ strike, it is the teachers working in public hospitals who have been affected. WAFT president Dr Asha Pai Dhungat told Express Newsline that while AMOs from peripheral dispensaries were putting in a lot of work, “They cannot handle situations where immediate treatment is required.. But they are sincere and hard-working.” In its Wednesday resolution, WAFT has also said, “Due to the large volume of emergency cases that we have to deal with in the absence of resident doctors, our best may not be enough to prevent patient morbidity and mortality. Medico-legal problems could thus arise for which we would not be responsible in anymanner.”
Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.