Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Thursday asked striking resident doctors in Maharashtra to resume work immediately while chief minister Devendra Fadnavis appealed to them to call of the four-day stir, assuring security in hospitals.
In Delhi, union health minister J.P. Nadda asked states to take measures to improve security of doctors.
After the HC’s direction and the CM’s appeal, the representatives of the protesting doctors went into a huddle to discuss the directive and the steps to be taken thereof. According to Dr Sagar Mundada, the chairman of the Indian Medical Association’s youth wing, a decision on the matter will be taken soon.
Nearly 4,000 resident doctors have been striking since Monday, demanding enhanced security in the wake of a string of attacks on doctors by patients’ relatives at government hospitals across the state. The protests have been hampering the services of Out-Patient Departments (OPDs) in various hospitals.
The HC asked the doctors to get back to work and resolve their issues and demands amicably with the government. A division bench of chief justice Manjula Chellur and justice G.S. Kulkarni gave the directive while hearing a petition filed by activist Afak Mandaviya seeking action against the protesting doctors.
The HC also directed the government and management of various hospitals not to take any punitive action against the doctors who were served notice yesterday for not resuming their duties.
“The doctors will have to first go and resume their duty. All other issues can be amicably sorted out gradually," chief justice Chellur said. “We understand that the doctors are working in strained and horrible conditions sometimes, but we request them to resume work immediately," she said.
Chief minister Fadnavis, while making a statement in the state legislative assembly on the ongoing strike and its fallout on the public healthcare system, urged the doctors to follow their professional ethics by serving the people.
“Because of the acts of a few irresponsible people of attacking doctors, it is not right to deny the poor their right to access to the medical facilities. I appeal to the doctors and their organisations to call off the strike and return to work," he said.
The government had spoken to representatives of the striking doctors and accepted all their demands, he said. “The state has enacted special laws to protect doctors. The quantum of punishment has been increased and attacks on doctors made a non-bailable offence," the chief minister said.
State advocate general Rohit Deo informed the high court today that the government has decided to deploy an additional 1,100 armed police personnel from Maharashtra State Security Corporation in all the state and civic-run hospitals.
“The first lot of 500 police personnel will be deployed at hospitals in Mumbai on 5 April. The remaining 600 will be deployed at hospitals across the state by 30 April," he said. “This will be in addition to the already deployed policemen at the hospitals," Deo said.
The court accepted this statement and asked the doctors to resume work. “You (doctors) resume work and see if everything is done as assured by the government. We will hear the matter every fortnight and supervise the issue," the judges said.
Fadnavis, while appealing to the doctors to resume work, said, “The laws need continuous upgradation and the government is open to discussion." “We will try to see that attacks on doctors do not happen and if it happens the perpetrators will be punished severely," the CM said.
State medical education minister Girish Mahajan had earlier warned the protesting resident doctors that they would lose six months’ pay and face suspension if they did not resume work by 8pm yesterday. However, the doctors continued with their protest.
The Indian Medical Association — which has some 40,000 members in Maharashtra — had yesterday extended support to the agitation. The protest also got support from various other organisations of medical consultants, orthopaedics, general practitioners, Mumbai Obstetric and Gynaecological Society, Association of Surgeons of India-Mumbai chapter, among others.
A representative of the protesting doctors earlier said, “The resident doctors also need armed security personnel at sensitive places on the hospital premises. There should be an alarm system so that the doctors can call the security." “The pass system, commonly practised in private hospitals, should be implemented to restrict the number of relatives visiting a patient," he said.
“There is also a need to make the attack on doctors a non-bailable offence and cases should be heard before fast track courts. These are our demands and we are not asking for the moon, still the state is not addressing it on priority," he said.