On a day the Centre sought a report from the West Bengal government on the ongoing doctors’ strike, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Saturday said she had accepted all their demands while appealing to all medicos to resume work.
“We have accepted all their demands. I appeal to all doctors to resume work as thousands of people are awaiting medical treatment,” Banerjee said at a press conference in Nabanna, the state secretariat.
The press conference took place hours after agitating junior doctors turned down the invite for a closed-door meeting with Banerjee at the Secretariat, throwing a spanner in the resolution of the issue that has paralysed the state healthcare system for the past five days.
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) June 15, 2019
The West Bengal CM, who has faced flak from the Opposition for talking tough on the protests, also said she had directed the police not to arrest any doctor during the strike. “BJP governments in the past have invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to threaten agitating doctors. I believe in democracy and that is why I have not invoked ESMA,” she said.
Banerjee said the state government would bear all the expenses of medical treatment of the junior doctor who was attacked on June 10 at NRS Medical College and is presently admitted at a private hospital. “Health services cannot continue like this. I am not going to take any stringent action. Let good sense prevail,” she said.
Centre seeks report from Bengal govt on doctors’ strike
In its advisory, the Ministry of Home Affairs said it had received a number of representations from doctors, healthcare professionals and medical associations from different parts of the country for their safety and security in view of the ongoing strike by doctors in West Bengal, which entered its fifth day.
“It is requested that a detailed report be sent urgently on the representations and the ongoing strike by the doctors,” the MHA advisory said.
Junior doctors in West Bengal have been agitating since Tuesday after two of their colleagues were attacked and seriously injured following a patient’s death at NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata. Over 450 medicos across various state-run medical college and hospitals in West Bengal have resigned to show solidarity.
Doctors refuse to meet Mamata Banerjee at Nabanna
On Saturday, a statement by a joint forum of junior doctors said they felt highly insecure and apprehensive regarding their meeting with the CM behind closed doors. “For the last two days, the CM has made offensive and inappropriate statement directed towards doctors. Following that, we faced mob attack and physical assault at different medical and dental colleges and hospitals,” the statement said.
The doctors, instead, asked Mamata to visit the NRS Medical College and Hospital for an open discussion to resolve the impasse. Expressing concerns about the suffering of common people, the junior doctors sought an urgent solution to the crisis by ensuring proper security and safety at hospitals.
“We are deeply upset and feel insecure and apprehensive regarding our representative meeting her behind closed doors. That is why we are not sending any representative to her office. We want an urgent solution to this situation by ensuring proper security and safety at our place as per our demands. We will humbly request the CM to meet all of us at NRS and implement all of our demands at the earliest,” the statement further read.
To placate the agitating doctors, Indian Medical Association president Santanu Sen held a meeting with senior doctors and administrative authorities and asked them to meet the CM once.
Sen, also a TMC MP, said the assault on doctors was not new and had become a phenomenon across the country. “I have already asked them to consider the patients’ condition and meet CM. She has already conveyed that their demands will be fulfilled. There are a lot of people who are outsiders and are trying to brainwash these junior doctors,” Sen told reporters.
Harsh Vardhan asks states to enact law to protect doctors
Meanwhile, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan asked states to consider enacting specific legislation for protecting doctors and medical professionals from any form of violence. In a letter to all the Chief Ministers, Vardhan called for strict action against any person who assaulted doctors.
“Resident doctors in many parts of the country are agitating and not providing healthcare services. Agitations by doctors in West Bengal seem to be getting aggravated and taking shape of a strike by both government and private sector doctors, all over the country. Strict action against any person who assaults them must be ensured by the law enforcement agencies,” he said in the letter.