Paramedical workers demonstrate at PMCH on Friday, before the strike was called off. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh
Doctors at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) said paramedics at the hospital "intentionally" touched sterilised equipment at the operation theatre on Friday to sabotage surgeries.
Friday was the third day of a strike by paramedical staff at state government-run hospitals, which was called off around 8pm after the government accepted some of their demands.
According to doctors, paramedical staff, including operation theatre (OT) assistants, lab technicians, X-ray and echocardiography technicians, sabotaged three surgeries at PMCH.
Dr Chander Kiran, head of gynaecology, alleged that the employees on strike touched sterilised equipment meant for hysterectomy (surgery to remove uterus). "We were supposed to start the surgeries around 9am on Friday, but the operations could start only around 12noon because the employees went inside the OT and deliberately touched the sterilised equipment," Kiran said. "All the instruments are sterilised before a surgery so that patients do not get infected. It takes a good amount of time to sterilise the equipment."
A source in the gynaecology department said surgeries on two patients - Nagni Devi and Anwari Khatun, both 58 - were scheduled to start around 9am but could only be started around 12noon.
"How can anybody enter the OT and touch sterilised instrument? It is only possible in a government set-up," fumed a relative of Nagni Devi.
The paramedics, however, denied the allegations. "We have not done any such thing. The doctors are hesitating to perform surgeries because of staff crunch," said Rajesh Kumar, president, Bihar Rajya Anubandhit Para Medical Karmi Sangh.
PMCH sources said only 18 of the 35 planned surgeries were conducted at the hospital on Friday, thanks to the strike.
"On one hand the paramedic employees are not providing services in the OT because of which many surgeries were cancelled and on the other hand, the employees tried to sabotage surgeries in this critical situation," said a doctor at the anaesthesia department of PMCH. "There is complete chaos. The government should step in."
Doctors at Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) also said they had to cancel 30 planned surgeries on Friday. "We are somehow dressing the patients in emergency cases and referring them to other hospitals," said a senior doctor at NMCH.
Sudhir Kumar, superintendent of Anugrah Narayan Medical College and Hospital in Gaya, said only six of the 10 planned surgeries were performed at the hospital.
"We had kept the number of planned surgeries very low because of the paramedical staff crisis," said Sudhir. "Usually, around 20 surgeries are conducted at the hospital daily. Today, the four surgeries that were cancelled were orthopaedic and such surgeries require high-degree sterilisation. As we don't have sufficient number of OT assistants, this was not possible."
Paramedics working on contract at government hospitals went on strike on Wednesday, demanding that the government extend their tenure (many employees' term has either ended or is about to end).
Rajesh Kumar, president of the Bihar Rajya Anubandhit Para Medical Karmi Sangh, said: "The health department on Friday assured us that the Bihar Public Service Commission will soon publish results of interviews meant for regularisation of our services. If this is not done, we will be given extensions. We are lifting the strike but we will go on strike again if the government does not fulfil its promises in 15 days."