Kolkata: Junior doctors in West Bengal finally called off their week-long strike and promised to resume duty on Tuesday morning, ending a stir that crippled out patient departments and severely affected emergency services at hospitals across the state. At a meeting held at the state secretariat on Monday evening, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee told a team of 31 junior doctors, “Lakkhi chhele, ebar tomra strike tule nao (Please withdraw your strike like good boys)”, which they agreed to. The doctors, relented in the face of some gentle persuasion and genuine-sounding assurances from the CM.
Several issues were discussed at the meeting. They ranged from security measures - collapsible gates for emergency wards, regulated entry for patients’ kin and enhanced police presence on medical campuses with nodal officers responsible for law and order - to the CM’s suggestion for third party PR professionals, who could act as grief counsellors and handle communication between “overworked doctors” and “aggrieved patients’ kin” and bridge the gap as well as grievance cells for patients.
“We are delighted with the cordial manner in which the meeting was held, the CM’s caring touch and concrete suggestions and assurances to the issues raised by us. We came here for a discussion because we wanted a solution. The CM’s commitment has assured us that our concerns will be looked into and appropriate action taken against the unwanted incidents,” one of the junior doctors said after emerging from the meeting. “We respect doctors and teachers. They have genuine demands. We have listened to them and taken decisions to resolve them. This must be a continuous process. We have to see to it that such untoward incidents are averted and strong action is taken if something happens,” Mamata said.
Bengal’s healthcare system collapsed
The doctors' strike began in Kolkata after a junior doctor of the government-run NRS Medical College and hospital was attacked by the relatives of a patient who died, has become a pan-India protest. Hospitals across India on Monday suspended all but essential services in response to a call from the Indian Medical Association. The matter has also acquired political overtones with the BJP's Union Minister Babul Supriyo taking on the Mamata Banerjee government over it. "
The state's healthcare system collapsed last week with more than 700 government doctors tendering resignations in an unprecedented show of solidarity with their striking junior colleagues. The unprecedented number of resignations on a single day appears to have been triggered by the chief minister’s response to the crisis, when she issued an ultimatum at SSKM hospital, asking striking doctors to either return to work or face action. Undaunted by the threat, junior doctors intensified the stir, with many senior doctors also joining them to express support. The principal and vice-principal at NRS Medical College and Hospital resigned, as did 21 senior doctors at the College of Medicine & Sagore Dutta Hospital on BT Road.