Doctors on strike

  • OPDs shut down


When two elephants fight, the saying goes, the grass gets trampled. Patients trying to get attention at outpatient departments in teaching hospitals on Saturday found themselves to be like the grass, as doctors refused them treatment. This was not out of dislike of the patients, but because they had a dispute with the government, over the Teaching Medical Institutions Bill. The government, through the Bill, which it has patterned after the KP Act, makes doctors non-pensionable contract employees, while allowing them the right of private practice in and out of the hospitals. The Young Doctors Association, which the Bill would forbid, and whose membership consists of the house surgeons, house physicians and junior registrars who are the backbone of the treatment provided by any hospital, has shut the OPDs in support of its demand that the government withdraw the Bill. The strikers have been reported as using violence against consultants. This may be meant to discourage the hospital authorities from calling in the consultants (‘old doctors’?) to perform the house doctors’ and registrars’ duties. This has been done in the past, but cannot be done again if consultants refuse.

The YDA and the government have long struggled with the issue of proper compensation for doctors in government service, including salary and the right to private practice, and it is patients who suffer. When the YDA issues a call, it seems that doctors forget all their pious pledges of serving suffering humanity, not to mention the Hippocratic Oath, and rush on strike. The YDA’s founders have now retired. The government has been twisting and turning, but it must find a way out of the problem. It may not be the right time, what with the IMF now talking to the provincial governments, but the PTI should remember one reason it won was because it was expected to improve healthcare. And for that it needs doctors happy with their lot.