Guwahati: Patients in large numbers visiting the OPD (outpatient department) of Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) had to bear the brunt as the department, otherwise very busy on normal days, came to a grinding halt on Monday. This followed the decision of the Junior Doctors’ Association of GMCH to join the Indian Medical Association (IMA) for a 24-hour-long nation-wide strike demanding enactment of a central law to check violence against healthcare workers.
Over 300 resident doctors and interns and 100 faculty members of GMCH have joined the strike starting from 6 am on Monday in a phased manner. However, all emergency services were fully functional during the period.
Patients and their attendants coming from distant places, who started reaching the hospital premises from early morning on Monday, have expressed unhappiness as they had to return home empty-handed due to the strike.
“It’s not about wasting our time alone. Money has also been wasted due to the sudden decision of the doctors. We have come from such a distant place and we have no other option left but to return home,” said Md Sukur Ali, a patient from Kokrajhar district of Assam.
Expressing serious concern over the condition of the patients visiting the OPD of the GMCH, Ali said that huge number of patients, some of whom are children, have returned home. “It was really sad to see the condition of patients, especially those are children, because of the strike today. It’s always good that these doctors are protesting against something democratically. But they should have made enough publicity for this. Had we been aware of the strike, we won’t have come today. They should have given enough publicity about the strike on Monday,” he added.
Same was the condition of Kamini Rabha of Sukunia village of Kamrup (Rural) district, who is accompanying her daughter (10) to GMCH on Monday. “I have come here with my daughter to undergo some medical tests. She is appearing her school examination. Since there was no examination today, I have taken her to the hospital for the tests. Because of her illness she was continuously vomiting on her way to the hospital. Now, we have to return home and have to come back again,” she regretted, adding: “These doctors are busy in strike today. But the same bunch of doctors will start earning huge amount of money by working in private hospitals from this evening itself.”
“It’s always good to follow democratic means. But medical services shouldn’t be affected at all. They will stage strike in government hospitals and earn money in private institutions. Are they being paid by government to stage strike only? What are these? Government should also take adequate measures keeping the greater interest of doctors as we all the patients in mind,” another patient on condition of anonymity told EastMojo.
Over 1,000 patients visiting the OPD of GMCH had to return due to the strike on Monday.
Dr Hemanga Baishya, secretary, IMA, Assam said that medical services have not been affected due to the strike. “Except the OPD, doctors are attending patients regularly, including in the emergency department. We have adequate staff and we are working on a shifting mode,” he said.
Elaborating on their demands, he said that they are protesting against the ongoing violence against doctors. “Our one and only demand is that the government of India should enforce a proper law dealing with violence on doctors and healthcare staff, and in hospitals,” Baishya added.
The IMA had launched a four-day nationwide protest from Friday and wrote to Union home minister Amit Shah demanding enactment of a central law to check violence against healthcare workers.
It had also called for a countrywide strike on June 17 with the withdrawal of non-essential health services.
In a statement, the IMA said effective implementation of the central law has to be ensured by incorporating suitable clauses. Nineteen states have already passed legislation in this regard and in 2016, an inter-ministerial committee’s recommendations document was signed by the IMA with the central government, the medical body said.