Doctors accused the Health Minister of Karnataka of making false promises to them.
Bengaluru: Outpatient departments (OPD) services and non-essential surgeries have been severely disrupted in government hospitals as the Karnataka Association of Resident Doctors (KARD) and other hospital staff began their indefinite strike on Monday.
Many were refused services at the OPD of the Victoria Hospital. Mary Lothina from Peenya who had an angiography a while back had to wait for an hour to get a blood test done. She further said that she needs surgery on her left eye but the doctors couldn’t give her a date because of the ongoing strike.
Tajunnisa who came from the Mandya district of Karnataka said that the doctors have asked her to visit the hospital after two weeks. She said, “I have severe pain in my stomach. They gave me a few medicines and said that I have to come back later as the doctors won’t operate because of the strike. What is the point of visiting the hospital after two weeks if I am feeling the pain now?”
The protesting doctors have three demands. Dr. Namrata, former president of KARD said that in May, the state government promised a grant of Rs. 10,000 to all the junior doctors which has not been released yet.
“Whenever we speak to the Health Minister, he keeps saying that the funds will be released in 10 days, but it never got released. Other states had also announced grants for the junior doctors, and they have already credited the stipend,” she added.
The students also have a longstanding demand for the withdrawal of the fee structure announced in 2019. The government hiked the annual fees for post-graduate (PG) students, from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 1,20,000 without consulting the students. The government is yet to roll back the fees.
In addition, the doctors also want the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET-PG) counseling process to be accelerated to relieve the doctors. Usually, the fourth-year students, and the first and second-year PG students take care of the OPDs, but a delay in the admission process has put an additional burden on fourth-year MBBS students and second-year PG students, she stated.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also come out in support of junior doctors. Dr. Anuradha Parmeshwari, president of the Indian Medical Association, Bangalore said that she hopes the government and the doctors can come to an amicable solution soon, before the third wave of Covid 19 kicks in.
Along with junior doctors, the housekeeping staff and ward attendants of the Victoria Hospital and the Bengaluru Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI) are also protesting against the authorities seeking an immediate release of their salaries.
A member of the housekeeping staff of Victoria Hospital mentioned that they have not received their salaries for the past two months. She added, “We don’t have money to send our children to school, we don’t have money to buy cylinders for cooking, how can we survive like this?”
Dr. Ramesh Krishnan, Medical Superintendent of BMCRI said that unless the state government releases some funds they cannot do anything. “We don’t have any information on when the funds will be released. Due to the incoming third wave, there should not be any large gathering at hospital premises,” Krishnan said.
K. Sudhakar, Minister of Medical Education and Health, Government of Karnataka said that the protests have come to his notice, and he has spoken with the finance department to release the funds. He assured that the allowances would be credited to the resident doctors’ accounts in two or three days.