| Medical students in Mumbai protest against the Centre’s proposal to extend the MBBS course duration from five-and-a-half years to six-and-a-half years. (PTI)
Hyderabad, Dec. 3: Six more children died in the city’s top childcare centre today, taking the toll to nine since last night as striking junior doctors intensified their protest over an alleged assault by a lawmaker.
The doctors refused to end their agitation despite Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen legislator Afsar Khan’s arrest and a government assurance of a CID probe into yesterday’s incident.
“It is unfair that innocent children have become scapegoats in a battle of ego between doctors and politicians,” said health minister G. Aruna Kumari, who along with colleague Mukesh Gowd held several rounds of talks with the doctors as they squatted on the road near Niloufer Hospital.
Hospital superintendent N. Narasimha Rao denied the deaths were a fallout of the strike. He said they were all critical cases brought to the hospital at the last minute.
“Critical cases are brought to us as a last resort from all over Telengana and the border districts of Karnataka and Maharashtra,” Rao added.
The alleged assault followed an altercation between the doctors and Junaid Khan, a relative of the MLA, who claimed the medics had delayed treating his one-year-old daughter after she was brought to the hospital yesterday morning.
Junaid was taken into custody after the doctors filed a case of assault. When Afsar — part of the MIM trio who tried to assault writer Taslima Nasreen in August this year — heard that his relative had been arrested, he stormed into the hospital with several supporters and reportedly beat up some doctors.
G. Raju, a spokesman for the junior doctors’ association, said the MLA’s supporters abused and assaulted some women, too.
The flash strike started soon after and dozens of doctors hit the streets in protest and to demand protection on duty.
The doctors are also insisting on a meeting with Andhra Pradesh Assembly Speaker K.R. Suresh Reddy to submit a memorandum seeking Afsar’s suspension from the House.
“We told the doctors the government is with them. We have agreed to conduct a CID inquiry and appropriate action will be taken after the probe,” health minister Kumari said.
Afsar, who counts wrestling among his many skills, claimed neither he nor any of his supporters had manhandled hospital staff and the doctors were at fault.
“They first neglected their duties and then misbehaved with the patient’s relatives. On being informed about the incident, I went to the hospital and advised the doctors to withdraw the case against the patient’s father. They refused,” he said, accusing the doctors of acting like rowdies and inconveniencing patients.
Anticipating a prolonged agitation, many parents have taken their children to other hospitals while Niloufer authorities said they have requested doctors from other government hospitals to help out on humanitarian grounds.