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Besieged doctors cripple hospital
- Ceasework at RG Kar in protest against poor facilities and being made scapegoats

Calcutta, Nov. 2: RG Kar Medical College and Hospital plunged deeper into chaos today with junior doctors going on a day-long ceasework and the hospital — left gasping by the strike — turning out every patient except a measly 15 till late evening.

The protest followed an incident last evening when angry relatives of a deceased patient beat up a member of the house staff for alleged negligence. While it continued, Dipti Majumdar — the wife of Ashutosh Majumdar who had just died — alleged at 11.30 am that no one gave her husband oxygen.

Shobai bollo ekhon kichhu hobe na, niche jhamela hochchhe (Everyone told us that nothing was possible as there was this big fracas going on),” Dipti said.

Junior doctors stopped work and sat on a hunger strike, drawing attention to attacks by relatives of deceased patients and asking why they must shoulder the blame for the government’s “slow-poisoning of the healthcare system”.

Their protest ended in the evening after the authorities asked for two weeks to make amends by improving security and infrastructure, promises that have been heard before.

After 70-year-old Nityagopal Banik’s death last night, his relatives set on the lone member of the house staff at the emergency, bringing around 300 of his colleagues, interns and post-graduate trainees out of their hostels “to teach the miscreants a lesson”.

Policemen escorted the assailants out of the hospital, angering the already incensed doctors further. They began evicting patients’ relatives from the campus and, when police protested, a scuffle ensued. With Rapid Action Force personnel bolstering police presence, the junior doctors were beaten back into their hostels.

Asked why policemen were disobeying the chief minister’s order — to arrest anyone disturbing normality in hospitals — Cossipore officer-in-charge Anil Jana replied that Banik’s relatives did not “beat up” doctors. “They were only protesting against negligence,” he said.

Junior doctors, who form the backbone of a hospital, have been bearing the brunt of these negligence protests. They went on a hunger strike and ceasework, separately telling director of medical education Chittaranjan Maiti, hospital principal Basudeb Banerjee and superintendent Chandan Sen that they would meet no one except health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra.

“This year alone, doctors have faced five attacks,” one of them said. “Each time, we were assured more security and improved infrastructure,” he said.

Junior doctors from all other teaching hospitals in the city supported the stand and, by evening, many had reached RG Kar to express solidarity.

“We are fed up having to withstand allegations of negligence when we are equipped with a 100-year-old infrastructure to treat patients,” said an NRS intern.

With the mood of intransigence growing, the police initiated a case against “unknown” doctors for obstructing on-duty personnel and the CPM-controlled Association of Health Service Doctors tried to divide the students.

State CPM secretary Anil Biswas, telling junior doctors that they were on the wrong side, blamed “two political parties” (the Congress and Trinamul) for sparking trouble. But he did condemn the attack on doctors as well. Around 8 pm, principal Banerjee and other officials persuaded the junior doctors to go back to work.

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