MCD doctors face similar uncertainties

Just because we are considered to be of a decent and well read-class, and will not go on a rampage on the street like the others, we shouldn’t be taken for granted. Getting salary is our basic right and it’s a shame that we are forced to ask for it,”says Dr Sunita Fotedar, Head of Department, Gynaecology at Swami Dayanad Hospital.

A strike called by resident doctors to protest over unpaid salaries for several months had paralysed the functioning of this Municipal Corporation of Delhi-run hospital in December.

Situated in northeast Delhi’s Dilshad Garden, Swami Dayanand hospital witnessed a strike on December 19-24 by its doctors, and class-2 and 3 employees, which caused hardship to many patients.

“Barring five or six doctors working in the Emergency department, around 145 doctors at the hospital went on strike for four days. The Out Patient Department (OPD) which handles 1500-1600 patients every day, suffered the most,” recalls Dr M P Singh, Additional Medical Superintendent.

“Apart from OPD, general medicine, surgery, eye, orthopaedic, gynaecology and skin departments also suffered during the four days of strike,” says Singh.

The arrears have been piling up. In December, the doctors received the salary for October and are now wondering whether at the end of this month they will get their salaries for the remaining three months or not.

This has been the trend for the last two years, they say. “We are not getting regular salaries for the last three months, and our arrears of the last two years are still not paid to us,” says Dr C L Verma.

Doctors say they went on strike only when they were pushed to the wall by the municipal corporation.

“We sent several letters, went on agitation for a couple of hours. And after exhausting all our options, we realised that nothing was moving in our favour, and we decided to go on strike,” says Dr C L Verma.

Swami Dayanand doctors claim that most patients visiting their hospital during last month’s strike didn’t suffer, as they were diverted to the nearby Guru Teg Bahadur and Hedgewar hospitals. All cases of pregnancy were referred GTB Hospital.

But this increased the load on that hospital. Verma admits that in some cases, other hospitals refused to operate on patients sent from Swami Dayanand.

Patients living near the Dayanand Swami hospital were the most troubled.
“I had come here few days back to get some pregnancy-tests done. As I enquired at the entrance of the Gynaecology department, I got to know that the services were not available as the doctors had gone on strike. We felt disappointed and went to a private hospital for the tests, which cost us a lot,’’ says Geeta, a patient.

Even vendors suffered.
“On an average, I sell 100 cups of tea every day, but during the strike period the sale came down to five or six cups, as very few patients were seen in the hospital,” says Sandeep, a tea seller whose shop is on hospital premises.

A group of doctors moved court this month. Replying to the court’s notice, the Delhi government stated that it had released all the Plan and non-Plan funds to the MCD.  But Dr Verma alleges that the funds meant for salary were diverted elsewhere by the MCD.

Resignations
After months of financial uncertainty resident doctors at Swami Dayanad Hospital have begun looking for opportunities elsewhere.

“I have to give Rs 20,000 every month as house rent. Add fuel charge on it and other daily expenses of the family of four which is totally dependent on me. I am fed up with this situation and have given up now. I have resigned today only,’’ says a resident doctor with the Anaesthesia department.

According to Fotedar, three doctors from the Gynaecology department have already resigned and more are thinking of quitting.

“I am at the stage of retirement. However, those who have their entire future ahead of them have started to resign,” she says.

Comparing their situation with that of the class-4 employees, mostly sanitation workers, she says that since the municipal doctors’ work doesn’t directly affect the lives of the ministers and babus, they are the least bothered about them.

But safai wallahs can make their lives hell if they stop picking up garbage from front of their houses, she argues.

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