Kolkata, June 17
Doctors in West Bengal who have been protesting for safer working conditions decided to call off their almost week-long strike on Monday after they were promised action from the state government.
A spokesperson of the joint forum of doctors told reporters here that the doctors will return to work as they want to give the state government some time to implement the promises.
"Our meeting and discussion with the CM met a logical end. We temporarily withdraw from our ceasework. Considering everything we expect the government to solve the issues as discussed in due time," he said after a meeting of the governing body of the forum at the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and hospital.
The decision to end their protest comes within hours of a meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.The meeting between delegates from a joint forum of junior doctors and the chief minister ended with the chief minister asking police to appoint nodal officers for security of doctors at all government hospitals in the state.
Better security was one of protesters' chief demands given the escalating violence against doctors across the country.
The meeting was covered by two regional news channels after doctors demanded live coverage for "transparency".
The delegation wanted exemplary punishment for those involved in the assault of doctors at NRS Medical College and Hospital on June 11.
Doctors across the state called for a strike after two of their colleagues were brutally assaulted at the NRS Medical College and Hospital by the family members of a patient, who died last Monday.
Doctors across the country soon joined their West Bengal colleagues and went on a nationwide strike to demand better working conditions. Thousands of doctors protested outside hospitals across the country, holding placards and wearing black arm bands and bloodied mock bandages.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA), that represents more than 300,000 doctors and half-a-million junior doctors, medical students and other staff, said almost all of its members, apart from those providing emergency services, have joined the protests.
"Practically, the entire medical fraternity is on strike," Dr RV Asokan, the IMA's honorary general secretary told Reuters on Monday. "Everybody is on the street."
The IMA is demanding tougher punishments for those who attack doctors, as well as higher recruitment to support the overworked staff.
A doctor in an outpatient unit in India often saw more than 100 patients in a day, Asokan said, and despite tens of thousands of junior doctors graduating every year, many were out of work.
"The workload of doctors is inhuman," he said. "The government is not recruiting enough."
Doctors, who have been protesting in West Bengal ever since the attack a week ago, were due to hold talks with the government after the state authorities permitted the media to cover the meeting.
As protests mounted, another incident of assault on doctors was reported at the AIIMS.
The protest has affected health services across the country. Chaos marked hospitals at several places on Monday, as doctors responded to Indian Medical Association’s call for strike of non-essential services.
In Delhi, AIIMS, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital, and RML Hospital, and government healthcare facilities such as GTB Hospital and DDU Hospital, along with some private hospitals, withdrew non-essential medical services such as OPD, and held protests.
Outpatient departments (OPDs) and routine operation theatre services have been shut down. However, emergency and ICU services continue to function in these facilities.
Resident Doctors' Association of the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), which had previously not joined the strike, announced they were withdrawing all non-essential services from 12 noon till 6 am on Tuesday, after a junior doctor at its trauma centre was allegedly manhandled on Sunday by the attendants of a patient.
The medico at the Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre was "manhandled and abused" for "giving preferential care to a critical patient", the RDA claimed in a statement. Police said that they have a received a complaint that the doctor was restrained from performing his duties. Two attendants of the patient have been detained and a case has been registered, they said.
Healthcare services at several government and private hospitals in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh were affected on Monday as scores of doctors stayed away from work in solidarity with their colleagues in West Bengal.
The doctors stayed away from non-emergency services in response to a call for a 24-hour strike by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) against an attack on two junior doctors at a hospital in Kolkata last week.
In Maharashtra, more than 40,000 doctors in Maharashtra are boycotting work on Monday as part of a strike call given by their apex body IMA in support of their agitating colleagues in West Bengal, an official said.
Doctors, from various government and private hospitals in the state, are mainly boycotting the OPD (Out-Patient Department) and other non-essential health services, he said.
In Uttar Pradesh, thousands of doctors both from the government and private hospitals stayed away from work, affecting medical services severely in Lucknow.
Hundreds of resident doctors from three government hospitals and thousands of others from private hospitals went on strike. The three government hospitals whose doctors joined the stir are Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS), King George's Medical University (KGMU) and Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Institute of Medical Sciences (RMLIMS).
With resident doctors striking work, the government hospital failed to admit any new patient, leaving senior doctors to attend to old patients only in the OPD.
There were queues at Ernakulam Government Hospital in Kerala on Monday morning, as patients waited to consult the limited number of doctors who were on duty. Agencies
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