Thousands of doctors across the country on Monday joined a nationwide strike called by the Indian Medical Association in solidarity with doctors in West Bengal protesting against last week’s assault on two junior medical practitioners at NRS Hospital in Kolkata, the Hindustan Times reported.

All non-essential services, including outpatient departments, remained closed at many hospitals from 6 am. However, the Indian Medical Association has assured that emergency and casualty services will continue to function.

Doctors in Delhi, Rajasthan, Assam, Gujarat, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Karnataka and Kerala joined the strike even as their colleagues in West Bengal prepared to meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at 3 pm at the state secretariat to end the impasse, which began last Tuesday.

More than 100 private hospitals, nursing homes and clinics in Karnataka suspended outpatient services, PTI reported. However, government hospitals remained open after the Commissioner of Health and Family Welfare issued a circular.

In Kerala, doctors at state-run hospitals boycotted work for two hours while medical practitioners at private hospitals joined the 24-hour nationwide strike, according to PTI. Long queues were seen near outpatient departments at several government hospitals across the state early on Monday. Members of the Indian Medical Association staged a sit-in in front of the Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram, demanding security and protection for doctors.

The medical association had launched a four-day nationwide protest on Friday, and had written to Home Minister Amit Shah demanding a central law to prevent violence against healthcare workers. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday urged states to consider enacting legislation to protect doctors and medical professionals from any violence.

The medical body on Monday demanded a central law to deal with violence against doctors and healthcare staff. The association said exemplary punishment for those involved in violence against doctors should be a component of the central law, and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure should be amended.

“Healthcare violence has its origin in high expectations, lack of infrastructure and inadequate human resources,” the medical body said in the statement. “Issues of medical profession involving a doctor-patient relationship, effective communication regarding the nature of illness and professional counselling play a part as well.”

AIIMS doctors in Delhi go on strike

Meanwhile, resident doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi joined the strike and said they would withdraw elective services from 12 noon on Monday till 6 am on Tuesday, ANI reported. Casualty, Intensive Care Unit, labour room and emergency services will not be affected.

Though the doctors had earlier said they would not participate in Monday’s strike, they joined the protest after a junior resident doctor at the emergency department of Jai Prakash Narain Apex Trauma Centre in the hospital was allegedly abused by the relatives of a patient early on Monday.

The police have detained two people in connection with the incident, according to The Hindu. The incident took place around 2 am when the attendants of an accident victim got agitated and allegedly misbehaved and abused the doctor. The doctor lodged a complaint at Safdurjung Enclave Police station.

“...this event made us rethink about the warfront- like conditions faced by our fellow medicos elsewhere, where they are usually left alone to fight for their lives while saving those of the sick and even where the basic security measures like CCTV surveillance and special security deployment at Emergency and ICU’s are nonexistent,” the Resident Doctor’s Association of AIIMS said in a statement.

Also read:

  1. West Bengal: Doctors on strike to meet CM Mamata Banerjee at 3 pm
  2. Explainer: How the West Bengal doctors strike swelled into a political crisis for Mamata Banerjee