Doctors in Delhi call off strike

Doctors in Delhi call off strike

Doctors in the national capital called off their two-day long strike late on Tuesday night, hours after Delhi government invoked Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against them. 

Earlier in the day, Delhi government invoked ESMA to force an end to the strike which had crippled healthcare services in government-run hospitals across the city. Under the ESMA, resident doctors can be arrested for not attending to work and their services can be terminated.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that the government was “forced” to invoke ESMA as doctors did not resume work despite the government agreeing to their demands. Health Minister Satyendra Jain said, “Emergency services have been affected which I found during inspections at hospitals. Patients cannot be left to die.”  

Hospitals could barely manage to run emergency services with limited number of senior doctors across state-run, Centre-run and MCD-run hospitals. Administrative staff across hospitals expressed helplessness as several critical patients were left unattended. 

“We have received several critical delivery cases since late Monday night. Skeletal emergency services are being run and it is not possible to accommodate all patients. The death rate will obviously go up with the strike on. OPD services remained suspended,” said a senior doctor at Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital in east Delhi.

The situation was the same at Lok Nayak Hospital (LNJP) which sees a large chunk of outstation patients. “OPD services were completely shut down as we do not have as many doctors to cater to the patient load,” said Dr Siddharth Ramji, medical superintendent, LNJP.

Parveen Khan, 40, suffering from a gall bladder stone problem, said, “The visit to the hospital was fruitless. I am fasting as this is the month of Ramzan. Now, I have to visit a private hospital where I have to shell out a high consultation fee.”

People turned away were seen waiting on the pavement outside the hospital. The situation was similar in Lady Hardinge, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Hindu Rao Hospital, Safdarjung Hospital, Ambedkar Hospital and Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, among others. “How can doctors leave poor patients in this state?” said Purnima, 50, at G B Pant Hospital.

At Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, some outstation patients clueless about the strike wanted to stay back in the hospital hoping treatment would be available early next morning. The emergency department was also deserted.

Despite waiting in long queues, the pathology department functioned for only an hour with most patients being turned away.
“We were in queue for our blood samples to be collected. However, only a few patients’ samples were taken,” said Chiranjeet Kaur, a resident of Vikaspuri.

The Delhi government had agreed to the 19 demands raised by the 20,000 member strong Federation Of Resident Doctors Association on Monday evening after doctors went on strike. 

However, the doctors were not satisfied with the minutes of the meeting and decided to continue with the agitation. Better security measures, improvement in hostel facilities, better work hours and availability of lifesaving drugs were the points highlighted by the resident doctors.

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