West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday urged junior doctors at state-run hospitals to end their strike to resume work, saying the state government has accepted their demands, NDTV reported.
The junior doctors at NRS Hospital in Kolkata went on strike on Tuesday along with their colleagues across the state, 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. Earlier in the day, the protestors turned down Banerjee’s invitation to a meeting to resolve the impasse. Five senior doctors met the chief minister but not much headway was made.
“We have accepted all their demands,” Banerjee said at a press conference at the state secretariat. “I had sent my ministers, principal secretary to meet the doctors, waited for five hours to meet doctors delegations yesterday and today, but they did not come. You have to give respect to the constitutional body.”
The chief minister pointed out that five people had been arrested for assaulting the doctors immediately after the incident. “A number of people have died because of lack of treatment,” Anandabazar Patrika quoted Banerjee as saying. “Doctors are our pride. We are heartbroken at the problems being faced by patients.”
The chief minister called for good sense to prevail, and said police action would not be taken against doctors even though objectionable remarks had been made about her. She pointed out that “health services cannot continue like this”.
Banerjee said the government does not want to implement the Essential Services Maintenance Act, or ESMA, in the state. The central law was passed in 1968 to ensure the delivery of certain essential services, whose disruption would affect normal life.
Asked about the resignations of doctors, Banerjee said these mass resignations do not have any legal standing. “We are still waiting for discussions to start,” the chief minister added. “Constitutional bodies should be respected.”
Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Home Affairs asked the state government for a report on the ongoing strike, saying it had received representations from doctors, healthcare professionals and medical associations across the country.
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.
The protest against the assault on doctors has spread to other parts of the country. Resident doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, or AIIMS, and Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi threatened to go on an indefinite strike if Mamata Banerjee failed to meet the demands of protestors within 48 hours. The Indian Medical Association has called a nationwide agitation on Monday.