The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Locked out, doctor and patient
- Several AIIMS medics and faculty report for work but strike ‘forced’ on them

New Delhi, July 7: Minutes after the government had announced its intention of sacking AIIMS director P. Venugopal on Wednesday, members of the institute’s Resident Doctors Association went shopping.

They returned with a bagful of brand new locks and keys. Those locks came in handy today, shutting down almost the entire outdoor and emergency services at the institute.

Not all doctors at the country’s premier hospital were on strike, though, contrary to the claims of the Resident Doctors Association (RDA). At least 117 senior and junior resident doctors and over 70 senior faculty members had reported for duty today.

Their intention of treating outdoor patients was, however, frustrated by the locks on the entrances of all departments, including emergency services.

“Today, the strike was forced on us,” said Anoop Saraya, a doctor.

With two patients having died after being turned away from the institute, the doctors had been anxious to undo the “negative publicity that AIIMS has been getting”.

“Some of us even managed to get into our departments from the side entrances,” said Sunil Chumber, sub-dean of the institute.

Most patients, however, do not know about side entrances. So these doctors ' almost 200 of them ' sat in their offices defying the RDA strike call only for a trickle of patients to come to them.

“I only treated six patients today,” Saraya said. Normally, even on a lean day, he treats at least 30.

Some doctors sent a letter to medical superintendent D.K. Sharma asking why the faculty were being restrained from working, but received no reply. Sharma’s office later explained that it was “helpless to do anything”.

Health minister Anbumani Ramadoss blamed the administration. “Changes in administration are necessary to ensure that AIIMS stops being a political hub and gets back to being a medical hub,” he said.

He had a message for the striking faculty and resident doctors. “I hope they behave like responsible doctors. They should see reason. They are not street urchins,” Ramadoss said. “I hope they get back to work by tomorrow.”

The strike has been blamed for the deaths of Santosh and Sarvesh Kumar. Santosh, 48, was coughing blood when he was brought in on Wednesday night but his wife was told to take him elsewhere. He died around dawn on Thursday waiting in the long queue outside the overflowing Safdarjung Hospital just across the road.

Sarvesh Kumar, 35, had to leave the emergency ward on Wednesday after the strike kicked in. He died outside Safdarjung the same night.

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