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Bengal Doctors' Strike Prompts Solidarity Protests Across Country

Agitating doctors Friday demanded Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's unconditional apology and set six conditions for the state government to withdraw their four-day-long stir.

Bengal Doctors' Strike Prompts Solidarity Protests Across Country
Doctors across the country staged protests in solidarity with with their counterparts in West Bengal, who are protesting against the assault on their colleagues
Bengal Doctors' Strike Prompts Solidarity Protests Across Country

Doctors, including kin of top Trinamool Congress leaders, held protests across the country on Friday in solidarity with their agitating colleagues in West Bengal even as Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and relatives of patients urged both sides to end the impasse which has crippled the state's healthcare system.

Agitating doctors Friday demanded Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's unconditional apology and set six conditions for the state government to withdraw their four-day-long stir.

"We want unconditional apology of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the manner in which she had addressed us at the SSKM Hospital yesterday. She should not have said what she had," a spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors, Dr Arindam Dutta, said.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) declared Friday as the "All India Protest Day" and launched a three-day nationwide protest. It also called for a strike on June 17 with withdrawal of non-essential health services.

Over 100 senior doctors of various state-run hospitals across West Bengal resigned from service. Doctors across the country went on protest to express solidarity with the doctors agitating against the attack on their colleagues in West Bengal.

The doctors, including heads of departments of medical colleges and other hospitals in Kolkata, Burdwan, Darjeeling and North 24 Parganas districts, sent their resignation letters to the state director of medical education, a senior health department official told PTI.

Doctors in Delhi's AIIMS and other prominent hospitals, in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana as well as other places, especially AIIMS, stayed away from work, demanding justice for their Bengal counterparts and enhanced security for practitioners.

However, in Bengal, the situation worsened as in the wake of cease-work at state-run hospitals, over 200 doctors of four medical colleges, including the NRS Medical College and Hospital - the epicentre of the protests after a junior doctor was beaten up by attendants of an old patient who died, submitted mass resignations even as patients and their kin appealed for an end to the agitation.

Terming West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is like a "guardian", a "mother", renowned actor-filmmaker Aparna Sen appealed to her to "change her stance a bit" and take a more humane view of the threats faced by doctors.

Sen was part of a group of intellectuals from the state who on Friday stood by the agitating junior doctors at the NRS Medical College and Hospital.

Banerjee's nephew Abesh Banerjee, who is a medical student, on Friday came out in support of the protesting doctors.

Abesh Banerjee, whose Facebook bio describes him as the President of KPC Medical College and Hospital, was seen at a rally holding a placard that read: "You say we are Gods!! Why Treat us like Dogs?"

Earlier, Kolkata Mayor and state Minister Firhad Hakim's daughter, a doctor, criticised the government's handling of the ongoing doctors' strike and said medicos had the right to "peaceful protest" and "safety at work".

In a Facebook post, Shabba Hakim asked people to question why "goons were still surrounding hospitals and beating up doctors".

Amid the crisis, Union Health Harsh Vardhan appealed to both the agitating doctors to end their strike and Chief Minister Banerjee to withdraw her ultimatum against the doctors in her state, which triggered strikes across the country.

Urging the doctors to end their strike in the larger interest of the society, he said he would take all possible measures to ensure a safe environment for them at hospitals across the country.

"I'll write to all the states where such incidents have occurred and ensure safe working conditions for doctors," he said after meeting a delegation of Resident Doctors Association of AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, United Resident & Doctors Association of India (URDA) and Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA), who gave him a memorandum on the violence against doctors in West Bengal.

Expressing deep concern over the West Bengal incident, Harsh Vardhan said: "I strongly condemn the unruly behaviour and assault on doctors. I will discuss it with the Chief Minister of Bengal."

Around 4,500 Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) stopped attending to patients in all the 26 government hospitals in the state simultaneously on Friday.

A large number of doctors gathered outside Mumbai's KEM Hospital with banners and posters, while similar protests were held in Pune, Aurangabad and Nagpur.

In Delhi, senior and junior resident doctors of several government hospitals also went on the one day token strike and boycotted work. Except for emergency services, there was full shutdown of all outpatient departments (OPDs), routine operation theatre services and ward visits, the AIIMS association said.

Resident doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Safdarjung hospitals carried bandages on their heads in a symbolic protest and suspended all non-emergency services. Some doctors also went around wards while wearing helmets.

Several resident doctors also held a protest at the Jantar Mantar.

In Odisha, students of the SCB Medical College and Hospital and the members of the Odisha Medical Services Association (OMSA) took out a protest march in Cuttack, while over 500 resident doctors, junior and interns of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Bhubaneswar started a day-long strike on Friday, though emergency services at the premier health institute remained unaffected.

About 15,000 doctors and nurses in private hospitals across Karnataka on Friday joined the nationwide strike, and so did doctors in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

In Kerala, over 3,000 post-graduate medical students and house surgeons across state-run medical college and hospitals on Friday went on a token strike.

However, the doctors clarified that the strike had got nothing to do with the nationwide day-long strike by medicos to express solidarity with their Kolkata counterparts, and their agitation was to demanding an increase in their stipends - last revised in 2015.


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