The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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30 die as doctors stop work

Patna, Feb. 7: At least 30 patients have died in nine government hospitals in Bihar since yesterday as agitating doctors forced health services shut for the second day today.

In Patna Medical College and Hospital alone, about 12 have died as an alarmed Rabri Devi government contemplated drafting in doctors from the army and voluntary organisations.

Doctors across the state struck work yesterday after the kidnapping of an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Bharat Singh. The strike was called off after Singh returned home tonight. The doctors said they would return to work tomorrow.

Earlier, the doctors squatted in front of the Patna hospital and the main gate remained closed with not even emergency services being made available to patients.

Sources in Patna medical college said six of those who died are children.

Twenty deaths were reported from hospitals in Munger, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and five other hospitals.

For chief minister Rabri Devi — already pinned down by a strike by advocates protesting the killing of one of their colleagues on February 4 and a pharmacy shutdown after the abduction of two medicine distributors — a Patna bandh lies ahead, tomorrow.

State health officials said efforts to press into service private doctors did not succeed because they had either joined the agitation or stayed away from work.

“We have tried to keep up supply of medicines to patients through government nurses,” health minister Shakuni Chowdhary said.

The Bihar chapter of the Indian Medical Association have appealed to the relatives of critically ill patients to shift them out of Bihar.

Dr Singh was abducted on Wednesday evening when he was returning home in his Santro. He had not realised that a Maruti Zen was tailing him until it overtook his car and stopped to let out five young men. They whisked him away in their vehicle at gunpoint.

Hospitals across the state were forced shut by doctors and health workers while student leaders hit the streets yesterday. Around 10.30 am, about 1,000 medical professionals blocked Ashok Rajpath and an hour later, a heavier crowd raced towards the secretariat. On being stopped by police the mob set a police outpost ablaze.

“If the doctor is not released by evening tomorrow (Friday), doctors — private and government — would strike work in the entire state,” the Indian Medical Association general secretary, Dr Sajanand Singh, had warned.

The threat was not empty and at least one doctor appeared unperturbed about its consequences. Among the squatters in front of the medical college here, the doctor said: “Everyday, on an average 10 patients who come from far-flung districts after being referred to Patna by district hospitals reach Patna medical college to expire before they are attended to. So what is the big deal'”

How many of the 30 deaths occurred because of the strike is difficult to establish. “We have no exact details of how many deaths have been reported in hospitals. Deaths get reported even during normal times,” said Dr Bharat Singh, vice-president of the IMA, Bihar.

The association’s general secretary, Dr Sahajanand Singh, added: “We know that the patients are facing hardship everywhere and deaths have been reported from the districts too but the patients’ relatives should also try to understand our agonising compulsion.”

The Opposition has pounced on the opportunity. “People’s anger is bursting forth on the street. They are disgusted with the anarchy where criminals hold the government to ransom. We want the Rabri Devi government to resign,” Nandkishore Yadav, state BJP president said.

The NDA has called a meeting of its constituents on February 11 to work out its strategy.

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