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Doctors on strike spree puts patient care under strain

Threat Of Strike By GMC Junior Doctors Looms Amid Ongoing Strike By SKIMS Resident Doctors

ZEHRU NISSA
Srinagar, Publish Date: May 16 2018 1:09AM
Doctors on strike spree puts patient care under strainFile Photo

While the strike of resident doctors at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences has already strained patient care, a larger crisis is lurking as disgruntled doctors, nurses and paramedics of associated hospitals of Government Medical College Srinagar have issued ultimatum to government for fulfilling their demands regarding removal of pay anomaly.

As per hospital records, in the past three working days, less than 200 patients were admitted at SKIMS, against an average of 200 per day. The huge drop in admissions reflects how badly patient care at the premier tertiary care hospital of Kashmir has been hit. At least 500 resident doctors, forming a major chunk of manpower at the institute have gone on strike seeking removal of pay anomaly.

Due to the strike, all patients’ appointments for surgeries and diagnostic tests were cancelled, the hospital administration said. “All our faculty members are on duty, ensuring presence even in night hours,” medical superintendent SKIMS Dr Farooq Jan said. “But due to the shortage of staff, only emergency surgeries and procedures are being carried out.”

Although SKIMS administration has been trying to break the ice with the protesting doctors and a meeting was held with their representatives on Monday, the doctors refused to call off the strike.

A memorandum by Resident Doctors Association at the SKIMS addressed to government has made it amply clear that the strike would continue till a written commitment on addressing their demands is not issued. The demands include bringing the pay band of SKIMS resident doctors at par with those of resident doctors of the PGI and AIIMS, implementation of 7th pay commission recommendation and timely release of 7th pay commission arrears.

However, the stalemate at SKIMS is not the only problem. Yet another is staring the health sector in the face. 

The hospitals like SMHS, Lal Ded, GB Pant and Bone and Joint are also facing an imminent strike by junior doctors over “non-fulfillment of their demands including of 7th pay commission.”

Resident doctors’ association (RDA) of GMC has also announced a deadline, after which they will go on strike if their demands were not met. On 12 May, the RDA wrote to GMC principal, reiterating the justification of their demands and implementation of 7th pay commission.

The communication has been sent as a “prior notice” to strike on June 4, when all services of all GMC associated hospitals will be closed down.

At the higher level, faculty members of the GMC and Government Dental College Srinagar recently expressed dissatisfaction with the way 7th pay commission had been rolled out for them.

A statement issued by Medical Faculty Association (MFA) of GMC said that currently remunerations for medical faculty in J&K was less than that of other states. “Be it Punjab, Haryana or Himachal Pradesh, medical faculty is paid much more than what it is paid in J&K,” said Dr Sajjad Qazi, president MFA, adding that the attitude of government was sure to brew “more discontentment and force brain drain”.

Last week, nurses’ association at the GMC associated hospitals commemorated international nurses’ day as black day in protest of “apathy of government” towards their long pending issues. The demands include bringing nurses in the same grade as technical staff of hospitals. “We know that the hospitals will collapse if we go on strike. Government should not push us to that extreme situation and address our demands,” the association said in a press statement.

A senior faculty member of SKIMS said that the way doctors are “forced to resort to strikes” to make their demands heard showed the attitude of government towards health sector of Kashmir.

“Human resource is the backbone of healthcare. But no one in government seems to be bothered about it,” said the faculty member.

At SKIMS, junior doctors voiced their angst over government’s attitude regarding their demands. “Legislators, teachers, everyone will have an automatic revision of pay. Why do we have to resort to strikes till government turns its attention towards us,” a member of SKIMS RDA said.