The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 16 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Patients in pain, docs gain

Jan. 15: The state government doctors — both regular and on contract — called off their two-day strike midway this evening after a fruitful negotiation with the health department officials. But by the time they returned to work, thousands suffered across Bihar.

At the end of the day, the agitated doctors gained. Patients were pained.

Some of the major demands of the doctors accepted by the state government include regularisation of services of 1,500 doctors on contract, three guaranteed increments to regular specialist doctors, two to those posted in rural areas and one more addition to the promotional avenues to be given after completion of 25 years in service. The government also accepted the doctors’ demand for non-practising allowances at a meeting in the evening in which representatives from Bihar Health Services Association (BHSA) and the health department took part.

Emerging out of the meeting, BHSA spokesperson Dr Ranjit Kumar said: “We decided to call off the strike after the government accepted most of our demands.”

He was all praise for the BJP state unit president Dr C.P Thakur. A renowned physician, Thakur played a crucial role in bringing the agitating doctors to the negotiation table.

Director-in-chief of the health department Dr Surendra Prasad and joint secretary Sanjay Kumar represented the state government during the negotiation.

Around 4,000 government doctors proceeded on a two-day strike from Tuesday accusing the state government of not paying heed to their long-pending demands.

Hospitals — mainly public health centres, referral hospitals, district hospitals and additional public health centres — across the state painted grim picture of patients’ agony.

The situation at the six medical colleges, including Patna Medical College Hospital, was relatively better because only their teaching staff joined the contract doctors in the strike. Though overburdened with outpatient departments (OPDs) remaining open, doctors attended to indoor patients.

The patients dependent only on the government hospitals in remote areas in the districts were the worst sufferers. Reason: most of the contract doctors are deployed in such places and the absence of any alternative healthcare facilities.

Rambha Devi (35), a Mahadalit woman from East Champaran district, suffered miserably because of the doctors’ strike. To her agony, she found no one to administer her medicine at the Motihari district hospital when she was writhing in pain because of a dead foetus in her womb.

Her husband Rajesh Ram told The Telegraph that his wife was admitted to the hospital on Sunday afternoon. The report of a ultrasonography test revealed she had a dead foetus in her womb.

“One Dr Sandhya Sinha examined her on Sunday, administered her some medicines and prescribed surgery on her. But now the doctors have vanished. There is no one to take care of my wife in the hospital. We are in great distress.”

Not just in district hospitals, patients at the peripheral hospitals in the state capital also suffered a lot. There was no medical help in sight for the patients turning up at New Gardiner Road Hospital, Gardanibagh Hospital and Loknayak Jaiprakash Narayan Hospital, Shastri Nagar Hospital. Doctors had not turned up at OPDs of these hospitals.

Emergency wards sported a deserted look when The Telegraph visited these hospitals. Their doctors, however, claimed that they had not interrupted the emergency services.

“We are supporting the strike but we are also looking after patients who are in need of urgent attention,” said Dr Manoj Kumar Sinha, the in-charge of the New Gardiner Road Hospital.

The reality differed. Several patients were seen returning from registration counters in the absence of anyone to attend to them. Even serious patients were found returning.

Malti Devi, a resident of Sitamarhi, was found struggling with her ailing father-in-law Mangal Rai — an asthma patient. He did not get any treatment at New Gardiner Road Hospital today despite being given an appointment 10 days ago.

“My father-in-law is suffering from serious breathing problems these days. He is spending sleepless nights. We thought that today he would get some medical attention here. But the strike has shattered our hope. The man sitting in the registration counter asked me to go away. He told me doctors would not treat my father-in-law because of the strike. I don’t know what to do,” she said.