Karnataka: Hospitals Paralyzed As Doctor’s Strike Enters Day 5 For Stipend Hike

Lamya Ibrahim

September 4th, 2015

Image Source: AJAY Photography

Four days have passed since Postgraduate students and interns across medical colleges in Karnataka took to the streets with placards and an infectious enthusiasm, hopeful their continuing pleas be acknowledged. The extreme step was taken despite repeated requests which include better security and a revision in stipends.

The issue of security is constantly evaded, even after increasing number of cases of physical assault and threats against doctors. As junior doctors are often the first point of contact and active throughout the day, they are also most frequently affected by such violence. It is an unhealthy work environment for well-qualified doctors, and also affects thousands of patients who rely on their presence of mind and proficiency daily.

Apart from security, money is the need of the hour. Following the last revision in 2011, stipends have remained stagnant at Rs. 15, 000 for interns, Rs. 25, 000 for Post graduates and Rs. 30, 000 for Super-specialty students, among the lowest in India, with no consideration for the current rate of inflation.  Ignoring the risk of being labeled ‘money-minded’, the protesters ask: is their toil worth only so much?

“Our work involves services in the outpatient and inpatient units, ICUs, Labour rooms, Casualty and Emergency Departments. We work all days of the week, no less than 80-100 hours per week. Our duties sometimes stretch for 36-48 hours continuously and there is no post-duty or weekly off. We have no prescribed number of casual leaves or medical leaves either in our curriculum,” reads the statement from Karnataka Association of Resident Doctors.

At an age when they are expected to take up family responsibilities, these residents are pushed to rely on their parents to cover expenses that include essential research activities and travel expenses for mandatory state and national conferences

“As residents we must also spend a fortune on equipment: good quality stethoscopes, pulse oximeters and BP apparatuses. Depending on your specialty, each department will have added expenses – such as microscopes for Pathology. Textbooks are costly, rates often ranging from Rs. 6000 to Rs. 11, 000 for a single book. Our schedule is packed and we are not used to such protests. Even then, we have all united for a cause, for our rights,” said Dr Anudeep T.C., President of JDA – Mysore.

“Even though it may not seem like it, the Government agreeing to our condition would help the community immensely. A satisfied resident makes for a much more efficient doctor than one who feels rejected by his own Government. The mistakes a frustrated doctor are prone to can prove very costly indeed,” commented Dr Melvyn, an intern at MMCRI.

“While everyone is more concerned about preventing unrest, we urgently need a quick response system from the Government to address these as well as other difficulties faced on the job so that healthcare remains uninterrupted. After all, patients should be ensured their basic right of getting proper facilities and good quality healthcare,” added Rahul, a final year MBBS student.

The strike was officially launched on August 31st, but the doctors began their race for justice in February 2014. The 10-month battle ended with the Finance Department rejecting all requests in December. Subsequent attempts to revive the matter bore no fruit either. Finally, after a peaceful candle march in April 2015, the doctors were left with no choice but to suspend their duties till a fair agreement was reached.

Currently all services, including Out-patient and Emergency departments are running without residents and interns, while elective procedures have been put on hold. Meanwhile, the campaigners in MMCRI, Mysore organized a blood donation drive titled ‘Bleed for Need’ yesterday, as part of the strike, collecting blood from more than 150 doctors, upholding their loyalty to patients even now. Other participating colleges include BMCRI Bengaluru, VIMS Bellary and KIMS Hubli among others.

The Logical Indian hopes all concerns will be duly addressed and that the hospitals can resume their work smoothly.

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