After having met the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) representatives after their Strike on July 2nd we got to know about the various issues faced by the doctors. So we thought it’s necessary to bring out the real side of the doctors’ lives to the youth. The Spark team interviewed Dr. Sagar Mundada (President, MARD) on 24th December 2015. Here are excerpts of the interview.
Spark: Can you tell us about experience when you went on strike on 2nd July 2015?
Dr. Sagar: This strike we have conducted is for our long pending demands regarding many issues, right from our basic living conditions to the diseases that we acquire while treating the patients. You might have read in newspapers that attacks on the doctor community have increased over the past few months. Apart from that there is the issue of working hours. Many doctors are working for more than 100 hours a week. We face a lot of problems regarding regularity of meals. Also the food we get here is not good. High working hours, not getting meals regularly, lack of nutritious food – all this results into lack of immunity. On top of that we are in constant touch with patients who are infectious. That’s why more than 90 resident doctors from all over Maharashtra contracted tuberculosis during the last few months. Up till now there is no leave sanctioned to the doctor even if she/he contracts tuberculosis while treating patients. Also if she/he takes leave then her/his academic duration would be extended by 4-6 months. But now the authorities have sanctioned a leave of two and half months for doctors who get tuberculosis. Also there was no maternity leave for female resident doctors, but after the strike we have got two and half month maternity leave sanctioned.
Spark: You told us about doctors being attacked by patient’s relatives, what action is being taken to deal with it?
Dr. Sagar: There are two ways to deal with it. Firstly the doctor-patient relation should be improved and secondly the security measures must be taken care of. That includes installing CCTV cameras and recruiting more security personnel. The number of patient’s relatives entering
hospitals has to be cut off. What happens in government hospitals? There is one patient but hundreds of relatives accompany the patient. That doesn’t help in patient care in any way. It adds to the confusion, adds to the chaos. So after the strike, we are in touch with the ministry; they have promised us that security cameras will be installed in 2-3 months.
Spark: You mentioned about the problem of working hours; could you elaborate?
Dr. Sagar: Yes, we have to work for 16-17 hours a day. And also without any weekly off. According to international labour law, a worker should not work for more than 50 hours a week. What we are doing is not clerical work. When a patient comes to us we have to handle her/him with utmost care, even one small mistake can change the course of diagnosis. On one hand the patient’s relatives come and beat us and on other hand you make us work in inhuman conditions. We are in a field which demands high level of skills and alertness. So long working hours not only affects doctors but they also affect the quality of treatment we give to the patients. So we are constantly demanding for 12 hours working day and a weekly off. And even if this could be achieved it will be a big thing for us.
Spark: What can be done to tackle this working hours’ problem?
Dr. Sagar: The number of doctors in this country is very less. According to the WHO standards there should be 1 doctor per 1000 people. But in India there is 1 doctor for every 1700 people which is a huge disparity. If the number of doctors is increased, then workload will be shared. Patients will get quality care. They won’t have to wait in long queues to get treatment. Also the number of incidents of violence against doctors will reduce. Patients won’t have to travel long distances for treatment. The government up till now has not been proactive. The government doesn’t want to spend enough amount of money on health care. Only 1.7% of GDP is spent on healthcare,which is too less in comparison to developed countries and even to developing countries! Until and unless the heath care budget is increased, this problem will not be solved.
Spark: What about emergency cases during strike periods?
Dr. Sagar: The emergency services were not affected by the resident doctors’ strike, as resident doctors are only one component of the total doctor community. There are our senior doctors, lecturers, associate professors, HOD’s etc. They handled the emergency cases during the strike period. In the media it was projected that hospitals were shut down because of strike, but that’s not true!
Spark: What about academic issues? Are they challenging?
Dr. Sagar: Yes, they are! After working for 16-17 hours you have to study, and whatever you study you have to apply while dealing with patients. So many things are loaded upon us. Many national and international studies have shown that every one of four doctors suffers from depression. That means 25% of resident doctors are under depression.
Spark: You mentioned about depression? Are there any cases of doctors committing suicides?
Dr. Sagar: Yes, this year there were at least 3-4 suicide attempts I know of. Thankfully no one died as somebody spotted them. Surely there have been at least 10 suicide attempts all over Maharashtra.
Spark: What about hostel facilities?
Dr. Sagar: Hostel facilities are not so good. In many hospitals, washrooms are not good. You have water facilities but you don’t have water purifiers, you have water coolers but water is not getting cooled. You have non-nutritious food in canteens. In most of the hostels there are dormitories in which 6-7 doctors are thrown in a single room. All that we want is that after the hectic work, rooms should be at least comfortable enough to have 4-5 hours of good sleep.
Spark: You told us that there is 2 ½ months leave sanctioned for doctors suffering from tuberculosis; what about other diseases?
Dr. Sagar: If you have other diseases then you have to take leave without pay. Also if a doctor is suffering from a major illness, then many a time he/she loses 4-5 months of the curriculum. Also if a doctor is ill, she/he still has to work as there are not enough doctors. You can’t leave 100 patients unattended. The government is not increasing number of doctors. It does not worry about the quality service in government hospitals.
Spark: What is the message you want to give to the public?
Dr. Sagar: People must realize that the doctor is only for them. But doctors also have their own problems. No doctor in this world tries to kill his/her patient. Think twice before blaming the doctor. Every doctor will try his/her best to cure the patient. Otherwise it affects the doctor-patient relationship. A doctor is not god. Have faith in your doctor!
Spark: Thank you, Dr. Sagar for the information and for your precious time. We support your struggle agaisnt injustice