Kolkata: Healthcare services in West Bengal faced a very serious crisis as more than 170 doctors in five-run state hospitals tendered their resignations Friday even as the junior doctors agitation entered its fourth day today.
In another separate development, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged the junior doctors to exercise restraint and continue serving patients. He also appealed to the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to not make this sensitive matter a ‘prestige issue’ and said that he will write to her in this regard.
Trouble started brewing from Friday morning as doctors started resigning en masse and sent in their papers to the Director of Medical Education and Ex-officio Secretary.
“We the following doctors of RG Kar Medical College have so far been trying our level best to run the hospital service smoothly. You are aware that the present situation is not ideal for patient care service,” the doctors of one of the state-run hospitals wrote.
“In response to the prevailing situation, as we are unable to provide service, we the following doctors would like to resign from our duty,” they wrote in the letter.
A similar picture was noticed in North Bengal Medical College and a hospital in Siliguri. “Already 15 senior doctors have submitted their resignation to Director of Medical Education and this figure may rise. It is not possible to carry on the services normally without the junior doctors,” Sudipta Mandal, Assistant Superintendent of North Bengal Medical College and Hospital said as the ceasework by the junior doctors of state-run hospital entered the fourth day.
The protest began at the state-run NRS Hospital Tuesday morning bringing the regular services to a standstill, after a junior doctor was allegedly beaten up by the kin of a 75-year-old patient who died there late on Monday night.
The family members of the deceased patient alleged medical negligence. An intern named Paribaha Mukherjee sustained a serious skull injury in the attack and was admitted in the intensive care unit of the Institute of Neurosciences.
Notwithstanding Banerjee’s warning of strict action if work is not resumed, the junior doctors carried on with their agitation. Services were totally disrupted in outdoor facilities and other departments of state-run medical colleges and hospitals and a number of private medical facilities.
The spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors, Dr Arindam Dutta, told this agency that demonstrations will continue till their demands are met.
“The manner in which the Chief Minister threatened the junior doctors is quite unexpected… This is an insult to our community. We also condemn this… She has to apologise for what she said yesterday (Thursday). We are not outsiders and this agitation is spontaneous. We are contemplating mass resignations,” Dutta informed.
Banerjee, who visited the state-run SSKM hospital Thursday in the wake of disruption of medical services in several parts of the state, had warned the doctors of action if they did not resume work. She had alleged that she had been ‘abused’.
Vardhan while reacting to the development in West Bengal said the situation has to return to normalcy.
“Despite getting beaten so badly, doctors have only asked her (Mamata Banerjee) to provide them with adequate security and also demanded action against the perpetrators of the violence as per the law,” Vardhan said.
“But instead of doing that, she warned them and gave an ultimatum which angered doctors across the country and they proceeded on strike. So if the Chief Minister acts in a sensitive manner in such a grave scenario, patients across the country will not suffer. I plead to the West Bengal Chief Minister to not make this an issue of prestige,” he said.
Vardhan assured doctors that the government is committed to ensuring their safety and urged them to ensure that essential services are not disrupted.
“I appeal to them that they can hold symbolic protests but should also continue to work so that patients do not suffer,” the Minister said.
Meanwhile in a jolt to the Mamata Banerjee-led government development the Calcutta High Court refused Friday to pass any interim order on the strike by junior doctors at state-run hospitals in protest against the attack on two of their colleagues by family members of a patient.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice TBN Radhakrishnan and Justice Suvra Ghosh asked the state government to persuade the striking doctors to resume work and provide usual services to patients.
The court also directed the West Bengal government to apprise it of the steps taken following the attack on the junior doctors at a city hospital Monday night.
The Chief Justice, during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), reminded the striking doctors of the ‘Hippocratic Oath’ they take to ensure the welfare of all patients.
The bench fixed June 21 for further hearing of the petition.