A strike by government doctors in Kerala entered its fourth day on Monday and continued to affect healthcare services in the state. The state government has called the strike illegal and refused to hold talks with the doctors until they join work, PTI reported.

The doctors began the indefinite strike on Friday. They had claimed that the time of the out-patient facility at family health centres had been extended without ensuring adequate staff. They were also upset over the suspension of a doctor at a health centre in Palakkad.

Health Minister KK Shailaja warned the doctors of action if they do not withdraw the strike immediately. The government has not yet decided to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act against the striking doctors, The News Minute reported.

“We are not for declaring a war with the doctors,” Shailaja said on Monday. “They have gone on strike without giving notice. There was no reason for them to launch the agitation, and denying treatment to patients was unfair.”

She asked doctors on probation to get back to work immediately, and warned that the government would begin to collect details of such doctors on Monday. The Kerala Government Medical Officers Association should not force them to continue with the strike, she added.

The doctors’ body said it would take its own measures if the government acts on its threats. It called for an urgent meeting on Tuesday to discuss the further course of action. The doctors said only the casualty wing of hospitals would function during the strike and they would give in-patient treatment only till April 18. There will be no new admissions and only emergency operations will be performed, they said.

The Kerala Human Rights Commission had on Saturday asked the government to resolve the problems immediately so that patients are not affected.