Agencies New Delhi/ Kolkata
Doctors in West Bengal called off a strike late yesterday after authorities promised improved hospital security, ending a week-long dispute that had spread to other parts of the country and crippled medical services.
The protests began last week after three junior doctors were seriously injured in an attack by family members of a relative who had died at the NRS Medical College in Kolkata.
“We are calling off the stir as the CM (chief minister) has assured zero tolerance with regard to assaults on doctors,” one junior doctor told a late-night news conference.
He did not give his name.
“We will get back to our duty as early as possible,” said a second junior doctor who also gave no name.
“The meeting has been positive and fruitful. We appeal to all junior doctors across Bengal to resume work as soon as possible. We have decided to give time to the state government to implement our proposals raised in the meeting.”
“We want to thank and congratulate all our friends, including the common people who stood by us during this movement. We thank the entire doctors’ fraternity in the country who spontaneously extended their support and made this movement possible. We hope to maintain this unity in the future,” he added.
The doctors said the chief minister has accepted all their demands and promised to take action within three days.
“We had a 12-point demand. The chief minister has accepted all of them. Everyone has seen the live broadcast of our meeting with her.”
West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had initially condemned the striking doctors, arguing that police did not go on strike when one of their colleagues was killed.
But yesterday she relented and promised better infrastructure at government hospitals, which suffer from a lack of facilities and poor hygiene standards.
Banerjee also visited one of the injured junior doctors and her meeting with the striking medics was streamed live on television.
P K Mitra, director of medical education in the state government, said that normal services would resume from today at government facilities.
West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi also welcomed the resolution of the crisis.
“The governor is happy that an amicable settlement has been arrived at the meeting held today. He appreciates the initiative taken by the chief minister and also the junior doctors to resolve the impasse,” a statement issued by the Raj Bhavan said.
Earlier yesterday, thousands of doctors had protested outside hospitals across India, holding placards and wearing black arm bands and bloodied mock bandages and demanding improved security and working conditions.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA), which represents more than 300,000 doctors and half-a-million junior doctors, medical students and other staff, said almost all its members, apart from those providing emergency services, had joined the protests.
The IMA is demanding tougher punishments for those who attack doctors, as well as higher recruitment to support overworked medical staff.
A doctor at an outpatient unit in India often saw more than 100 patients in a day, Dr R V Asokan, the IMA’s honorary general secretary, said.
Despite tens of thousands of junior doctors graduating every year, many are out of work, he said.
“The workload of doctors is inhuman,” he said. “The government is not recruiting enough.”
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