Kolkata: The week-long junior doctors’ strike across state-run hospitals in West Bengal was withdrawn on Monday shortly after a meeting between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and representatives of the agitating medics from various medical colleges.
“We withdraw our strike after our meeting with the Chief Minister. The meeting has been positive and fruitful. We appeal to all junior doctors across Bengal to resume work as soon as possible. We have decided to give time to the state government to implement our proposals raised in the meeting,” a representative of the striking doctors said at the state-run NRS Medical College and Hospital, the epicentre of the movement.
Earlier in the day, a 31-member team of junior doctors from all the state-run medical colleges in West Bengal participated in the meeting with Banerjee and senior state government officials at the state secretariat Nabanna where a 12-point charter of demands related to doctors’ security, hospital infrastructure and patient-doctor relationship was discussed at length.
The doctors demanded exemplary action against the attackers in the NRS incident and urged the Chief Minister to issue a “strong written or verbal message against such offenders”.
Banerjee termed the over one-and-a-half-hour long meeting as “positive and productive” and urged the doctors’ to immediately end the strike for the sake of the ailing patients. The young doctors said they were eager to get back to work, calling the deliberations a “move towards the positive direction”.
The Chief Minister promised to ensure on-ground implementation of the proposals discussed during the deliberations.
Accepting the proposals from the medics, she announced a dedicated mobile number and email address for doctors to lodge complaints of assault, appointment of nodal officers in medical college to monitor security and asked police to take immediate action in cases of attack on medical practitioners.
She told the state Health Department officials to increase the visibility of patients’ grievance cells in all hospitals and hold campaigns to make the patient parties aware of their existence.
Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi also welcomed the resolution of the ongoing crisis caused by the state-wide strike of doctors.
At NRS, relief was writ large on the faces of many terminally-ill patients, afflicted with diseases like renal failure and cancer.
It was the end of the ordeal for Chirashri Bhattacharya, who had to constantly boost the morale of her ailing mother, with whom she spent six days on the pavement outside the NRS hospital waiting for treatment.
Her ageing father, who accompanied his wife and Chirashri on the pavement, seemed a relieved man.
“My mother Pragati Bhattacharya, 70, has a kidney problem. She needs immediate treatment and is unable to bear the pain and tremendous heat,” Chirashri, a resident of Bolpur in Birbhum district, told IANS.
Loud cheers, whistles, and claps greeted the announcement of withdrawal of the junior doctors’ strike, as the protesting young medicos rejoiced at their victory.
“It is our victory,” said an intern, who had been shouting “We want justice” through the seven days of the “cease work” that started in protest against the brutal attack on two junior doctors by family members of a dead patient at the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital on Monday night.
The issue snowballed, as doctors across the state stopped work at the outpatient departments in most government hospitals, while angry medicos all over the country erupted in protest against the assault on their colleagues in Bengal.
The representatives of the striking doctors were cheered and carried on shoulders by their jubilant colleagues on their return to the hospital.
The meeting, originally scheduled for 3 p.m., was preceded by high drama as the junior doctors stuck to their demand for live media coverage of the deliberations.
The formal invite from the government had agreed to the doctors’ demand for recording the proceedings of the meeting, but had no mention of live coverage.
As the protesting medics refused to budge, at around 2.40 p.m., the government yielded to the demand, following which the junior doctors’ representatives boarded the bus for Nabanna to attend the meeting which got delayed by almost an hour.
Shortly after the meeting, Banerjee went to visit the injured NRS junior doctor — Paribaha Mukhopadhyay, who was beaten up following a patient’s death at the hospital last week and has been admitted at a private medical facility in south Kolkata.