Doctors working at the Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad returned to work on Friday after members of the Telangana Junior Doctors’ Association called off a strike which began on June 9, The Indian Express reported.

However, the doctors gave a 15-day deadline to the Telangana government to fulfill their demands. Late on June 9, doctors at Gandhi Hospital began a protest after relatives of a deceased coronavirus patient allegedly attacked a few junior doctors. Over 300 doctors refused to resume work.

The Telangana Junior Doctors’ Association had called for paramilitary forces to be stationed at the hospital, according to the Centre’s suggestions. Another demand of the doctors was that the administration decentralise coronavirus cases at various levels to ease the pressure on one hospital. They cautioned that otherwise it could lead to a collapse of the “already pathetic infrastructure”.

They also called for a permanent increase of workforce, including specialist doctors, nursing and paramedical staff, among other frontline workers. The doctors’ association said there should be sufficient provision of personal protective equipment and N95 masks for healthcare workers across public hospitals in the state.

Dr Lohith Reddy, president of the doctors’ association, said on Friday that Telangana Health Minister Eatala Rajender made a number of assurance to the protesting doctors. “He assured to decentralise Covid-19 treatment,” Reddy said. “He said he will talk to the Cabinet. We will wait for 15 days and if we don’t get the promises implemented, we will have to boycott duties and start a more intensive protest.”

The doctors’ association issued a statement that it had decided to call off the strike due to the minister’s promises and public health considerations during the pandemic. The press note said Rajender also agreed to recruit more doctors, nurses, patient care providers, and sanitation workers, as well as deploy special protection force personnel in all government medical colleges and hospitals.

The association said it will select the quality of personal protective equipment kits before the government placed an order. It added that a committee will be formed to follow up with the minister regularly over the next 15 days.

Earlier this month, the state government had claimed that the hospital, which is the major facility for Covid-19 patients in Hyderabad, was well-equipped to handle the coronavirus pandemic, and attempts were being made to mislead the public. The state health officials had told Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao that there were only 247 patients who were undergoing treatment at hospital, which had the capacity to treat more than 2,000 patients.

In April, the Centre had said that attacks on healthcare professionals, deployed on the frontlines to combat the coronavirus pandemic, will be a non-bailable offence and will carry an imprisonment from six months to seven years in severe cases, where there are grievous injuries.

Telangana has reported 4,320 cases of the coronavirus so far, including 165 deaths, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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