Junior doctors in state-run medical facilities in West Bengal, who have been on strike protesting against assault on their colleagues, on Thursday defied Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s 2-pm deadline to return to work.
The doctors stopped work on Tuesday, a day after the family of a patient, who died at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata, allegedly attacked two interns.
The protests have stalled medical services at government hospitals across the state with reports of clashes between angry patients’ kin and demonstrating doctors in some areas. Protestors had been asking for Banerjee’s intervention as one of their primary demands during the strike.
The chief minister visited the state-run Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital, popularly known as SSKM Hospital, in Kolkata to assess the situation earlier in the day. She was met by agitating junior doctors, who raised slogans such as “we want justice”.
“They are outsiders, the government will not support them in any way,” NDTV quoted Banerjee as saying. “I condemn doctors who have gone on strike. Policemen die in line of duty but the police don’t go on a strike.”
She directed the doctors to get back to work, threatening to take action if her order was not followed. “Outsiders [are] disrupting services at medical colleges and hospitals,” she said, according to PTI.
Banerjee added that medical students who do not get back to work should leave the hostels. She also asked the police to ensure that only patients get to stay in hospital premises, calling the agitation of junior doctors a conspiracy by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
However, members of the Joint Platform of Doctors in West Bengal demanded adequate security in every medical college and hospital. The doctors also demanded proper action against those who attacked doctors in NRS Hospital. “We will resume working as soon as our demands are fulfilled,” they said, according to ANI.
The doctors said they had spoken to Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi after Banerjee, who also holds the health and family welfare portfolio in the state cabinet, criticised them for going on strike. “We did not expect the chief minister to say what she did,” PTI quoted the doctors as saying. “Listening to her, we felt like we were the culprits.”
The shutdown of medical services has directly impacted thousands of patients across the state, sparking an angry response from the general population. Three junior doctors and a fourth-year student of Burdwan Medical College and Hospital were injured on Wednesday after a mob of patients’ relatives hurled bricks at them.