Over 3500 doctors go on strike in Assam, OPD services crippled
Guwahati: Over 3,500 doctors under the umbrella of the Assam Medical Service Association (AMSA) launched a massive protest across the districts in the state on Monday with three-day OPD boycott programme over the non-fulfilment of their demands, including time scale promotion for doctors and regularisation of salaries of senior PG doctors.
The beginning of the stir led to a disruption in the services of the outpatient departments across the hospitals in the state.
In a meeting of the association which was attended by over 3500 doctor members of the AMSA, it was decided that a three day protest would take place from November 1 to November 3 from 8 am to 1.30 PM.
The doctors had earlier led a similar protest and boycott programme around 10 days ago on October 19 that too resulted in the crippling of the OPD services. Their key demands included a timely promotion, pay-parity, security, and dignified salary for the senior doctors with a post-graduate degree. The Assam health minister Keshab Mahanta had also convened a meeting with the protesters following the strike on 19th October, but the deadlock continued to persist.
Talking about their issues, the AMSA said that many senior doctors have not been promoted even though they have been serving in the posts of joint directors and sub-divisional medical officers for more than ten years now.
The members of the body of physicians said that their demands remained unfulfilled even after several rounds of meetings with the state health department, due to which they decided to intensify the protests again. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) Assam chapter has also come in support of the boycott OPD protests led by the doctors. AMSA also expressed their displeasure over the failure of the government to provide a time frame to resolve their issues.
According to a media report in Guwahati Plus, the government has fulfilled only one of the demands put forward by the AMSA, for which they have been protesting since last month, and that is the promotion of 23 sub-divisional doctors. They had presented a 14 point demand list to the government. The state government doctors have been demanding a parity in pay with that of the central government doctors and timely promotion.
Detailing the issues, the general secretary of AMSA, Dr. Kanak Ch Talukdar told Prag news that according to Indian Public Health Standards, there should be 1 doctor against 3000 patients, whereas in Assam, the ratio is 1:5000. There are around 4420 doctors in Assam and 1482 vacant posts which the government hasn't filled up yet. Their demands also include modifying cadre review, time-scale increment for health doctors, two advance additions to the Diploma Holder of Srimanta Sankaradeva University of Health Sciences.
Talukdar further told Times of India, "Discrimination against senior doctors cannot be tolerated. We have been raising the issue of junior doctors getting more salaries than PG doctors or specialists since 2013. But the state government's inability to resolve the issue has compelled us to take extreme steps." Speaking to the pragnnews, he said, "If the state government do not meet our requirements, then we will take even more critical measures. We additionally had a meeting with the health minister. Although he promised us to fulfil our requirements, it has not yet been fulfilled."
Talukdar added that a virtual executive body meeting was expected to take place on Monday evening to discuss the issues. He said, "The principal secretary assured us that the government is committed to finding a solution to our demands." He also added that no decision has been made by the AMSA yet to withdraw their OPD boycott programme.
However, the boycotting protest led by the doctors also led to a lot of chaos in the hospitals since thousands of patients could not receive treatment. Following this, the principal secretary of the state health department, Anurag Goel asked the AMSA to withdraw from the strike.
The minister Goel told Guwahati Plus, "One demand has already been adhered to, that is the promotion of few doctors. Regarding the time scale promotion demand, we are processing that and it should be done within the next 3 to 4 days. Their demands have been considered but it is also not feasible to implement all of them immediately. It takes time and will be done accordingly."