Resident doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, or AIIMS, and Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi gave West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee a 48-hour ultimatum on Saturday to meet the demands of agitating doctors in the state, failing which they threatened to go on an indefinite strike, PTI reported. The doctors’ strike in West Bengal entered its fifth day on Saturday.

The AIIMS Resident Doctors Association had boycotted work on Friday along with their colleagues at public hospitals such as Safdarjung, Lok Nayak and GTB, and several private hospitals, crippling healthcare services in Delhi.

The doctors at AIIMS called off their protest on Saturday morning and returned to work. They will, however, continue to wear helmets and bandages at work as a sign of protest. “We condemn the hostile and unapologetic attitude of the government of West Bengal,” said the association. “Our protest at AIIMS, New Delhi, continues until justice is meted out. We hope that our colleagues across the nation will join us in this hour of need.”

Safdarjung Hospital Resident Doctors’ Association President Parakash Thakur also took a similar stand, according to PTI.

Resident doctors from 14 other government hospitals across Delhi, however, remained on strike, The Indian Express quoted the Federation of Resident Doctors Association as saying. The Indian Medical Association has called a nationwide agitation on Monday, with the withdrawal of non-essential health services, including the closure of outpatient departments, being planned. The apex body of doctors also reiterated its demand for a central law to prevent violence against healthcare workers at hospitals, and said the law should provide a minimum sentence of seven-year prison term to those found guilty.

Health minister writes to states

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan on Saturday wrote to chief ministers of all states and Union territories, urging them to ensure “strict action against any person who assaults” doctors.

“Through his letter to the States, Dr Harsh Vardhan has reminded the Chief Ministers and requested them to consider enacting specific legislation for protecting doctors and medical professionals, and has forwarded the Draft Act provided by IMA i.e. the Protection of Medical Service Persons and Medical Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss of Property) Act, 2017,” the government said in a press release.

“Our doctors rank among the best in the world and work for long hours under stressful conditions, grappling with a huge load of patients. It is the duty of State to ensure safety and security of doctors who assure that the healthcare needs of the society are met,” Vardhan wrote.

Doctors turn down Mamata’s invitation to talk

Earlier in the day, junior doctors in Kolkata turned down Mamata Banerjee’s invitation to a meeting to resolve the impasse. The chief minister had invited the protestors after holding a two-hour meeting with senior doctors, who are not part of the strike. The protestors want Banerjee to visit the doctor injured in an attack at the Neel Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata, condemn the attack on them, withdraw all false cases against doctors, and improve hospital infrastructure and facilities.

Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi said he had called up the chief minister to discuss the crisis but had got no response from her. On Friday, the Calcutta High Court refused to pass any interim order on the ongoing strike. The court asked the state government to persuade the doctors to resume work.

The junior doctors at NRS Hospital went on a strike on Tuesday, a day after the family of a patient, who died during treatment, allegedly attacked two interns – Paribaha Mukhopadhyay, who suffered a fractured skull, and Yash Tekwani, who also suffered head injuries.

Soon, the protests spread to state-run medical facilities across the state. On Thursday, the agitating doctors defied Banerjee’s ultimatum to return to work by 2 pm. Banerjee had threatened to take action if her order was not followed. She had also claimed that outsiders were responsible for it.

Also read: Explainer: How the West Bengal doctors strike swelled into a political crisis for Mamata Banerjee