Maharashtra healthcare crisis: 40,000 doctors join strike, but minister says issue resolved

Mumbai: The healthcare crisis in Maharashtra took a turn for the worse on March 22, with over 40,000 junior doctors joining 4,000 colleagues who are already on strike.
The development took place hours after state medical education minister Girish Mahajan warned earlier in the day that the agitating doctors would lose six months’ pay if they did not resume their duties by 8 pm. The new participants in the agitation are members of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and faculty members of the Medical Teachers’ Association (MTA).
However, Mahajan insisted that the problem has been resolved. “After meeting me, the doctors agreed to resume work by 8 pm. We assured them that we will take strong steps for their security. The measures will be put in place within 15 days,” he told ANI late in the evening.
Junior doctors across the state had launched the agitation to decry a series of attacks on medical personnel by relatives of patients. The agitators said they would resume work only if government hospitals were accorded additional security by the government.
A day after the Bombay high court said the authorities were free to act against the agitators, over 1,200 resident doctors from KEM, Sion and Nair hospitals received showcause notices for not reporting to work for over 72 hours on March 22 morning. “In case you fail to resume work until 8 pm, necessary action will be taken against you. This includes suspension from duty as a resident doctor of the hospital,” the letter says.
A resident doctor of KEM hospital said they will continue to agitate despite the directives issued by the authorities. “They can’t expel all 4,000 students simply because they are demanding their rights. We will continue the mass bunk because our demands have not been met until now,” he added.
The doctors are protesting recent cases of violence against medical personnel, including instances in Dhule and Mumbai’s Sion hospital – where relatives of patients attacked their respective doctors-in-charge. The agitators said patients are usually accompanied by a large number of relatives, which puts pressure on them. They have demanded adequate security measures and a pass system, where not more than two relatives will be allowed to remain with a patient inside the ward.
Many doctors, including members of the MTA and IMA, have come out in support of their agitating colleagues. While all private and government members of the IMA have joined the indefinite strike, the MTA – which comprises over 1,300-1,400 senior faculty members from civic-run hospitals – has decided to show their support by not cooperating with government officials.
“We will attend to serious cases and sign the register, but won’t work or cooperate with the officials. Doctors are asking for their rights, and there is nothing wrong in it. The action taken by the state is too harsh,” said an MTA member on the condition on anonymity.
Meanwhile, the agitation threatened to go beyond Maharashtra’s borders, with 20,000 resident doctors at government hospitals in Delhi deciding to go on mass casual leave between 9 am and 4 pm on Thursday. However, they will ensure that emergency services are not interrupted.
“If the issue is not resolved, doctors in other states like Punjab, Chandigarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh may also join the protest,” said Dr Pankaj Solanki, president of the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association.

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