New Delhi: In the wake of protests by the medical fraternity in support of agitating doctors in Kolkata, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan Friday urged them to exercise restraint and continue serving patients. He appealed to 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.
Junior doctors in West Bengal are on a strike since Tuesday after two of their colleagues were attacked and seriously injured allegedly by relatives of a patient who died at NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata. "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.
He 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 Union health minister said. Vardhan had Thursday urged patients and their attendants to exercise restraint and said he will take up the matter of doctors' security with chief ministers of all states.
Scores of doctors at several government and private hospitals in Delhi held demonstrations Friday by marching and raising slogans to express solidarity with their protesting colleagues in West Bengal. A group of members of the AIIMS Resident Doctors Association also met Vardhan and apprised him of the medical fraternity's demand of ensuring safety and security of doctors in face of any violence in hospital premises.
They also submitted a memorandum to Vardhan demanding a central law against hospital violence. They have sought immediate security and intervention of the Centre to stop the "politically motivated atrocity" on the protesting doctors in West Bengal. They have also demanded recruitment of both "armed and unarmed trained competent security guards" at all government health facilities and increasing the number of security staff at hostels.
The delegation also sought making CCTV vigilance in every hospital mandatory and implementation of a hotline alarm system. Vardhan has assured the doctors that he will look into their demands.
Doctors under the banner of the Resident Doctors' Association (RDA) held out marches in the AIIMS campus, with many wearing bandages on their foreheads while some worked wearing helmets. Resident doctors of the Safdarjung Hospital also took out protests in their campus Healthcare services at private and government hospitals in the national capital are likely to be affected on Friday as scores of doctors began the boycott for a day. There will be a complete shutdown of all out-patient departments (OPDs), routine operation theatre services and ward visits, except emergency services in the hospitals, several medical bodies of the city had said on Thursday.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has directed members of all its state branches to stage protests and wear black badges to work on Friday. In a communique to all its state presidents and secretaries, the IMA has asked them to organise demonstrations in front of the district collectors' offices from 10 am to noon on Friday and hand over a memorandum addressed to the prime minister to the collectors in every district.