New Delhi: Agitating junior doctors on Friday refused West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s invitation at the state secretariat for talks and instead asked her to come and meet them at the NRS Medical College and Hospital where they have been staging a four-day-long stir that has disrupted healthcare services across West Bengal and other places in the country.
Stating that it was a ploy to break their agitation, one of the doctors said, “She (Banerjee) is the guardian of the state and should come here. We are ready for the talks and we are ready to find out a solution.”
Director of Medical Education Pradip Mitra had met the agitating doctors at NRS and conveyed Banerjee’s invite to Nabanna.
The doctors sought an unconditional apology from the chief minister and set six conditions for the state government before they withdrew their protest.
“We want an unconditional apology from the chief minister for the manner in which she had addressed us at the SSKM Hospital on Thursday,” a spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors, Dr Arindam Dutta, said.
At the SSKM Hospital on Thursday, Banerjee had contended that “outsiders” had entered medical colleges to create disturbances and the agitation was a conspiracy by the CPI(M) and the BJP. She had also issued a four-hour ultimatum to the doctors to withdraw their stir, failing which she asked them to vacate their hostel quarters.
Listing the six conditions, the agitators said the chief minister will have to visit the injured doctors at the hospital and her office should release a statement condemning the attack on them.
“We also want immediate intervention of the chief minister. Documentary evidence of judicial inquiry against the inactivity of police to provide protection to the doctors at Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital on Monday night should also be provided,” he said.
Two junior doctors were assaulted on Monday night by family members of a patient who died at the NRS Hospital over alleged negligence. One of them, Dr Paribaha Mukhopadhyay, was critically injured and has been undergoing treatment at the Institute of Neurosciences, Kolkata. He condition is said to be stable now.
“We demand documentary evidence and details of action taken against those who had attacked us,” Dutta said.
They also demanded unconditional withdrawal of all “false cases and charges” that were imposed on junior doctors and medical students across West Bengal in the wake of their strike.
They also stressed on their demand for improvement of infrastructure in all health facilities as well as posting of armed police personnel there.
Amid the ongoing strike by the medical staff, several doctors across West Bengal resigned on Friday in protest against the state government’s handling of the situation.
The mass resignation came a day after principal Saibal Mukherjee and Vice-principal Sourav Chatterjee of NRS Medical College and Hospital put in their papers.
Actor-filmmaker Aparna Sen, who met the doctors at the NRS Medical College and Hospital, urged the chief minister to hear out their grievances patiently.
The Padma Shri awardee was accompanied by actor Kaushik Sen and musician Debojyoti Mishra among others all of who opined that it was necessary to stand by the doctors in this hour of crisis and help end the impasse.
Meanwhile, Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi said he had called up the chief minister to discuss, but got no response from her.
Tripathi paid a visit to the injured junior doctor at the hospital.
“I have tried to contact the chief minister. I have called her up. Till this moment there is no response from her. If she calls me, we will discuss the matter,” he told reporters after paying Mukhopadhyay a visit.
Earlier in the day, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged Banerjee not to make this sensitive matter a “prestige issue” and ensure an “amicable end” to the stir.
In a letter to Banerjee, he also requested that a secure working environment be provided to doctors.
Further, he appealed to the agitating doctors, particularly in West Bengal, to hold symbolic protests and resume work so that patients do not suffer.
He also supported the medical fraternity’s demand for a central law to check violence against health care workers in hospitals and said such crimes should be made non-bailable.
“Heinous repeated attacks on doctors across India esp WBengal have led to this situation. Govt must pass a Law to make any attack on Docs a non-bailable offence with min 12 yr jail. Draconian Clinical Establishment Act that treats Docs as criminals must be withdrawn (sic),” Vardhan wrote on Twitter.
His tweet came hours after the Indian Medical Association launched a four-day nationwide protest from Friday and wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah demanding enactment of a central law to check violence against health care workers in hospitals.
Reacting to Vardhan’s remarks, the IMA thanked the central government for responding positively to its demand.
Condemning any form of violence especially against medical professionals in the country, the apex body of doctors said its protest will continue on Saturday and Sunday as well, which will include wearing black badges, dharnas and peace marches, and called for a strike on June 17 with withdrawal of non-essential health services.
The Union minister assured doctors that the government was committed to ensuring their safety and urged them to ensure that essential services were not disrupted.
Vardhan also urged all patients and their family members to support doctors in performing their duties and professional pursuits in a peaceful and dedicated manner and not to resort to violence.
Renewing the demand for a central law, the IMA said the law should have a provision for a minimum of seven-year jail sentence to violaters.
To ensure that the cases are registered, culprits are arrested and conviction is necessitate, appropriate mandatory provisions as provided in the POCSO Act have to be instituted, it demanded.
“All the legitimate demands of the resident doctors in West Bengal should be accepted unconditionally,” RV Asokan, secretary general of IMA, said.
The IMA said all non-essential services, including OPDs, will be withdrawn for 24 hours from 6am on June 17, while emergency and causality services will continue to function.
Protests were held by doctors across the country in support of the doctors in Bengal.
A delegation of Resident Doctors Association of AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, United Resident and Doctors Association of India (URDA) and Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA), met Vardhan and submitted a representation on the violence against doctors in West Bengal.
Along with a central law, the doctors sought immediate security and intervention of the Centre to stop the “politically motivated atrocity” on the protesting doctors in West Bengal.
They have also demanded recruitment of both “armed and unarmed trained competent security guards” at all government health facilities and increasing the number of security staff at hostels.
The delegation also sought making CCTV vigilance in every hospital mandatory and implementation of a hotline alarm system.
Doctors under the banner of Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) held out marches on the AIIMS campus, with many wearing bandages on their foreheads while some worked wearing helmets. Resident doctors of the Safdarjung Hospital also took out protests on their campus.
The Delhi Medical Association (DMA) also extended its full support to the protesting doctors in Bengal even as it asserted that medical facilities and number of doctors need to be augmented to address issues related to patients.
Scores of doctors under the umbrella of the DMA also held a dharna in front of its office in Daryaganj and later marched to Rajghat.
Meanwhile, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury accused the Bengal chief minister of politicising the issue of doctors’ agitation and the BJP of communalising it.
“West Bengal govt must invite health workers & resolve this humanitarian crisis on a war footing. CM is trying to politicise instead of discharging basic responsibility. BJP wants to communalise by highlighting the religious identity of victims of a tragedy,” he wrote on Twitter.
A team of BJP leaders, including renowned fashion designer Agnimitra Paul, met the governor during the day seeking the Trinamool Congress supremo’s resignation as chief minister and health minister.
“The governor should talk to the chief minister immediately and exercise his power as constitutional head of the state to resolve the impasse and restore peace,” senior BJP leader Mukul Roy told reporters after meeting the Tripathi at Raj Bhavan here in the evening.
Roy, who headed the BJP delegation to the governor, said the TMC has unleashed a “reign of terror” in the state, which has resulted in restlessness in all walks of life.
Stalemate Continues as Protesting Bengal Doctors Refuse to Meet CM, Seeks Her Unconditional Apology – News18