- NRS Medical College and Hospital: Doctors treat patients in the outdoor wing, where a long queue has formed since morning.
- Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital: A poster at the gate of the hospital announces that doctors are on strike. Patients return from the outdoor department return after waiting in vain for hours.
The contrasting pictures at two state-run hospitals reflected the mixed response to the call for a 24-hour strike against the National Medical Commission Bill, 2019.
The bill, if passed, is likely to make medical education less accessible, legitimise unqualified health-care providers and compromise on quality with centralised entrance tests for both undergraduate and postgraduate medical education, doctors fear.
Medical professionals across hospitals said they didn’t get enough time to organise the protest in all government hospitals. Also, several doctors felt another strike just a month after a weeklong ceasework in June would inconvenience patients. Sources said the outpatient departments of several government hospitals were functional.
Some of them also mentioned a rift between two doctor leaders of the Trinamul.
Nirmal Maji, a leader of Trinamul’s medical cell, allegedly scuttled efforts to make the strike successful because the call was given by the Indian Medical Association, whose national president is Santanu Sen, another leader of the party’s medical cell.
A section of the doctors said they did not want to support a strike that could make them look anti-Centre.
The National Medical Commission Bill, 2019, passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday and awaiting Rajya Sabha approval, seeks to establish a new regulatory structure for medicine. It proposes to regulate fees for up to 50 per cent of seats in private medical colleges and allow community workers to deliver health care.
Doctors at private hospitals stayed away from the strike fearing too many strikes too often.
But the the outdoor departments at SSKM Hospital and the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital were closed. A few doctors joined after a while.
The OPD at the RG Kar Medical College and Hospital was open, the source said.
But the shutdown at SSKM, the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital and the Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital affected thousands of patients who had come from far away.
At SSKM, the orthopaedic OPD that runs on select days of a week was shut. “Hundreds of patients come and wait here since early morning or sometimes overnight. They all went back when the OPD didn’t open,” said a patient.
There was a long queue of patients outside the ENT OPD at the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. After waiting for a couple of hours many of the patients left.
At Sagar Dutta Medical College and Hospital in Kamarhati, patients and some doctors got into an argument over shutting down the OPD. The guard intervened and prevented the situation from escalating.
Doctors at NRS didn’t join the strike but wore black badges in protest against the bill. “We had planned a march to Lalbazar on July 30, but it was cancelled late on July 29,” said a doctor.