Do you remember that a few weeks ago there were pictures in the newspapers about patients lining up in front of public hospitals that were closed due to the strike of the resident doctors? Anyone seeing those photos or reading those reports would think, “These doctors are just greedy and do not care for the poor patients at all!” But we are sure that after reading this article your opinion will change!
Resident doctors are those who pursue their studies in a specialised field after their graduation. On July 2nd around four thousand five hundred resident doctors from all over Maharashtra, led by the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), went on a strike. Spark reporters had a talk with one of their leaders and got to know more about their working conditions as well as the reasons behind the strike and their demands.
A large part of the work of running public hospitals is carried out by these young doctors. Many critical functions are also carried out by these doctors. Yet they are made to work in very inhuman conditions.
If you have ever stepped into a public hospital, you would know that it is exactly the opposite of what it ought to be. Public hospitals are generally crowded and dirty. People many a time feel scared to go there, thinking that they will catch some disease or the other! But the doctors (and all the other employees) have to go and work there every day! Can you believe that a typical working day of a resident doctor is around 20 hours? On top of this, due to lack of space, many doctors are forced to stay with the patients for their treatments. Doctors who treat TB patients may end up catching TB themselves due to their poor working conditions and overwork. There was no provision for paid leave even in such cases!
After completion of their three years post-graduation in a specialized discipline, these doctors have to serve in a public hospital for one year according to their bond. After going through three years of study and practice to gain specialization in a field, they are often posted to a completely different field. For example a psychiatrist may be posted in a gynaecological ward, a paediatric may be posted to an orthopaedic ward, etc. Then what is the purpose of their specialization?
Moreover, this can even harm the patients!
A large number of resident doctors are women. Most of them are in their late twenties or early thirties. They are expected to work even when they are pregnant, which is a huge risk to both the mother’s and child’s health and well being. Even after delivery they get no paid leave. If they take unpaid leave, they risk losing their jobs and a chance to specialize!
Due to an overall lack of facilities and overburden of the doctors ultimately it is the patients who suffer. But these patients and their families at times vent their anger on the hapless doctors and the number of cases of physical assaults on doctors is increasing.
In 2009 an agreement was signed between MARD and the Government that every three years the stipend paid to the doctors would be revised in accordance with rise in cost of living. Revision of pay is due this year. Over the past six months, the doctors approached various authorities for solutions to their problems. This produced no result. Then they gave two intimations about stopping their work, but withdrew them keeping the patients’ interest in mind. Finally they were forced to stop work as there were no other options left.
Their main demands were:
1. Doctors who suffer from Tuberculosis should be given 2 months paid leave.
2. Women doctors should be granted 2 months paid maternity leave.
3. Resident doctors should be posted in accordance with their specialization.
4. CCTV cameras should be installed in all critical wards such as casualty, ICU, labour wards, etc. and proper security should be provided while performing their duties.
5. The agreement to revise the stipend should be implemented.
When the doctors stopped work, they were threatened with disciplinary actions. But the doctors were prepared even to go en masses to jail. Seeing the unity and determination of the doctors, the authorities were forced to give in after one and a half days. They gave a written assurance that the demands of the
doctors would be fulfilled.
We would like to congratulate the unity of the resident doctors of Maharashtra in winning their fully just demands.
Exactly like in this case, people who do work of benefit to society are painted in a very bad light whenever they struggle or go on a strike. When teachers strike work, the media says “They don’t care about their students!” When engine drivers go on strike, it is said that “They don’t care about the poor passengers!” Such examples are endless. What’s conveniently covered up is the bad conditions in which people have to work and the absolute indifference and callousness of those in power. The authorities just do not pay any attention to solving problems. No one enjoys going on strike. But what should people do when all the other avenues are closed? – Sheena