Doctors’ strike, in six Gujarat government medical colleges, has resumed only a day after the doctors had returned to take charge of the emergency and Covid-19 duties. The doctors had joined their duties after they had got an assurance from Deputy Chief Minister and Health Minister Nitin Patel that their grievances would be looked into by a committee. However, the protesting doctors have now upped the ante by revising their stand and demanding that their one year residency period after completion of their post graduation studies be counted as part of the compulsory medical bond service. The protesting doctors have demanded parity with their counterparts in Maharashtra where the residency period is counted as part of the compulsory medical bond services, the Indian Express reported.
Bone of contention
As per the state government rules, doctors are not only mandated to serve as a resident doctor for a period of one year after the completion of their PG studies but also complete an additional year of bond service in rural areas. In April this year, the state government which was battling the ferocious second wave was in need of healthcare workers including doctors. The government ordered that the residency period would be extended by three months and in return doctors would be certified to have completed their rural area bond service in nine months only taking into account their extended residency period. The government said that the residency duty would be counted as part of bond service in 1:1 ratio which means that doctors who have served one additional day duty in their residency term would serve one day less during their rural areas bond service.
In the same decision, the government also notified that doctors who have required academic qualifications would be appointed as specialist PG doctors as part of their medical bond service at district and taluka level for a period of 11 months. The same order had mentioned that one day of duty served at such hospitals would be counted as two days of rural bond service duty. However in July this year, the state government brought a change in stance and ordered that one day of duty at such hospitals would be counted as one day or rural bond service duty, angering the doctors. Students from six government medical colleges including Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar launched an indefinite strike demanding the rollback of the decision on August 4.
Why did doctors renew their strike?
While there are several demands put forth by the doctors’ community, the doctors have taken a tough stance on the demand that their residency period should be equated with the medical bond service period. Health Minister Nitin Patel on August 10 had assured that the genuine demands of the doctors community will be looked into by the government but doctors have resumed their strike now. The protest has found support from about 2,000 resident doctors, 1,150 intern doctors and over 500 senior resident doctors along with the Indian Medical Association Gujarat Chapter, Ahmedabad Medical Association among others.
While the government has maintained that the strike would not impact the medical and health services in the state, the Indian Express reported that planned operations and surgeries have been cancelled and postponed for several patients at these government medical colleges. Also, with the possibility of the third wave of pandemic in sight, it is indispensable for the state government to resolve the deadlock.