While the globe struggles to contain the spread of the ‘highly transmissible’ Omicron form of coronavirus, resident doctors in India’s government-run hospitals extended their strike on Monday, leaving thousands of patients in the national capital powerless. The Resident Doctors have been protesting since November 27 over the continuous postponements of the NEET PG Counselling 2021 and the resultant admission of a new batch of resident doctors to medical institutions. Also, the Body of a Resident Doctor FAIMA Announces the Complete Withdrawal of Healthcare Services Across the Country Beginning December 29th.
Things took an ugly turn after the protesting doctors clashed with policemen at south Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital while they were taking a march out to the Supreme Court to expedite the counselling of NEET-PG 2021 qualifiers. An FIR was also lodged against the agitating doctors for rioting, causing obstruction in the duty of police personnel and damaging public property. “We are protesting as a last resort. The government is not listening. What should we do?” a resident doctor told NDTV.
What’s the Deal With Doctors Protesting?
The physicians are upset about the NEET-PG 2021 counselling being delayed. Doctors must take the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for postgraduate courses (NEET-PG), a qualifying and ranking test for a certain speciality, after finishing their MBBS degree.
The National Board of Examination (NBE) generally holds this exam in January, but due to the coronavirus outbreak, it was postponed even more. The exam was held later in September, but admissions to medical schools were postponed, prompting the protest.
The protesting doctors have also claimed that the government made a “fake promise”. Furthermore, they pointed out the “acute shortage” of resident doctors across the nation as the NEET-PG 2021 batch’s counselling has been delayed by eight months now.
Total Shutdown of Medical Services in Delhi hospitals
After the fallout with Delhi police, the resident doctors called for a total shutdown of medical services in Delhi hospitals. Terming it a ‘black day in the history of the medical fraternity, the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) said there will be a complete shutdown of all healthcare institutions from today onwards.
“We strongly condemn this atrocity and demand that our FORDA leaders and resident physicians be released immediately.” The cops mercilessly attacked, pulled, and imprisoned resident physicians, dubbed the “Corona Warriors,” who were peacefully demonstrating to accelerate NEET PG Counselling 2021 in Delhi. The nation’s medical community must strongly denounce this behaviour and come forth in support. All-State RDAs around the country are encouraged to join the agitation! “We are all united in our struggle against injustice,” FORDA said in a statement.
HOW DOES THE DELAY IMPACT RESIDENT DOCTORS AND GOVT HEALTHCARE SYSTEM?
Resident doctors are considered the backbone of government hospitals. They share at least 60-70 per cent of the workload. The PG course is for three years. The PG students —who already hold an MBBS degree — work in several departments of government hospitals. By Dec-Jan, 3rd-year students go for preparations for their exams. So, the workload is handled by 1st and 2nd-year students.
But this time around, the first-year batch hasn’t joined hospitals due to the delay in NEET-PG, and third-year students will start preparing for the exams. So, the entire workload will shift on 2nd year PG students. While this would overburden the 2nd year PG students, patients will not get adequate attention due to a shortage of staff.
The government has been trying to address the doctors’ concerns. However, there were some violent incidents on Monday as the protesting doctors got into skirmishes with Delhi police, who were deployed to maintain law and order. Both sides claimed injuries.
On Tuesday, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya urged the doctors to end the strike in the public interest. Representatives of the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) met Mandaviya but later said the Minister’s “response was not satisfactory”. The Centre says it can only wait for the next hearing to take place since the matter is now in the courts.
Parallels have been drawn between the ongoing protest by the junior doctors and the year-long agitation by farmers that ended only last month. The medical fraternity has expressed hope that it is resolved at the earliest, with minimal inconvenience to lakhs of patients.
Supreme Court hearing: Timeline
Supreme Court is postponing the hearing time and again. As of now, the last hearing was on November 25 when the Centre, responding to questions from Supreme Court. The centre said that will revisit the criteria that fix a limit of Rs 8 lakh in annual income to determine EWS to extend reservation benefits and sought four weeks to complete the exercise. Supreme Court during the hearing on October 21 said to the centre, “You can’t just pull out Rs 8 lakh from anywhere. There must be some data. Sociological, demographic.”
Centre’s take on delay
Minister of Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya met representatives of the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association on December 28, 2021. In the meeting, Mandaviya urged agitating doctors to call off their strike in the public interest. The minister urged doctors to wait till the first week of January in regards to NEET-PG counselling as the matter is sub-judice before Supreme Court.
Is protest still going on?
After Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Mansukh Mandaviya assured that the NEET PG 2021 counselling will be held at the earliest, the Residential Doctors Association of All India Institute of Medical Sciences announced that they will call off their strike. A statement was released in this regard. “Amidst growing tension regarding manhandling of protesting doctors on 27.12.2021 by the Delhi Police and letter from RDA AIIMS New Delhi, the Union Minister has met with the resident doctors and released a press statement on 28.12.2021 assuring the NEET PG 2021 counselling to be held at the earliest. He has also reapproached the manhandling of resident doctors by the Delhi Police,” the statement read.
It has been announced that meanwhile, Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital’s doctors continue to stage protests taking to streets and stalling certain medical services. A patient outside Safdarjung Hospital told ANI, “The doctors (at Safdarjung Hospital) have asked me to pack and go back. They have asked me to come back on January 6 because they will start treating from the date announced.”