In the midst of a rapid increase in the number of Omicron cases, resident doctors staging a protest at Safdarjung Hospital demanding that NEET-PG counselling be held at the earliest
Safdarjung Hospital, one of the busiest hospitals in the capital, became the focal point of national news as doctors from across Delhi gathered here to protest against the delay in NEET-PG counselling which would bring first year residents on board. Instead of the usual silence, the hospital witnessed slogans like ‘Ye hartaal zaruri hai, shauk nahi majboori hai’ (This protest is important, it is not an indulgence but a compulsion), ‘Counselling ki date do’ (Give counselling date) and ‘Peet-peetke roka hai, doctors ke saath dhoka hai’ (You stopped us by beating, this is betrayal) being raised by doctors and students.
Dr Priyanshu, who is in his second year of post-graduation (Medicine Department) at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, while talking to Patriot explained the reasons behind the protest.“Usually NEET-PG exam take place in the first week of January and around May, admission process to Post Graduate Medical courses is completed, but this year because of the pandemic, NEET-PG exam were held in September. Due to this delay, counselling should have started early but this has not happened”.
He further went on to explain how this delay would hamper promotions as the new batch of doctors would not be joining hospitals in time, further creating a shortage of medical personnel in hospitals.
“These batches of doctors are facing more workload because of this deficit. The number of patients is the same but there are fewer doctors now. Doctors are working 36-40 hours regularly and, in a week, they work 80-90 hours. These rigorous working conditions are a source of mental pressure and depression to doctors. In the long run, this could affect their productivity,” adds Dr Priyanshu.
When we asked him about the reason behind the delayed dates, he said, “Because of the case in the Supreme Court of India, the counselling process has been delayed”.
“We request both the Supreme Court and the government to expedite the counselling process so that new doctors can come and start working. This would also ensure that doctors can rest”.
Dr Priyanshu also explained the reason behind the staging of the protest at a time when the nation is looking at a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases. “Daily we are witnessing more than 250 cases of Omicron in India with Delhi witnessing the second-highest numbers after Maharashtra. In this condition, the need of the hour is health and medical infrastructure and to run this infra we need doctors; if there are no doctors, how will we handle the virus? We don’t want to witness what we have seen in the second wave, where everyone suffered. Who will be answerable for this?”.
Dr Chahat Saxena, General Secretary of Resident Doctors Association, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Delhi said, “This protest has been going on for a month now, as we started protesting on 27 November. We have not directly shut the OPD services and initially, we wore black badges to protest the delay while writing letters to the government. But when we did not get a satisfactory response, we did this and after that emergency services were also halted. We even had a dialogue with Union Health Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, where we were given verbal assurances. Because of his position and verbal assurance, we had resumed emergency services. But when nothing happened after a week we marched towards Nirman Bhawan and again we had dialogues with the Health Ministry but again nothing was done to satisfy us and then again we have halted the emergency services”.
Dr Chahat Saxena further says, “We are here to fight for common people who avail medical services we provide them. One of our demands is that 42,000 vacancies of doctors should be filled. But none of our demands have been satisfied by the government. Currently a meeting between the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association and Health Minister is underway and after the meeting, we will decide our course of action” he added.
On 27 December, when resident doctors were marching towards the Supreme Court of India from Maulana Azad Medical College. Delhi Police stopped them near Shahidi Park, in response the doctors started protesting there, but soon it turned into a faceoff and many doctors were detained. Videos and photos of this incident created a buzz on social media and support started pouring in for the doctors.
When we asked him about the 27 December faceoff between Delhi Police and Resident Doctors, he said “Whatever happened was wrong, we were peacefully protesting and we were exercising our constitutional right. There were no female police personnel and female protesters were forcibly detained by male police personnel, we were manhandled and we were beaten brutally. This was sheer atrocity by Delhi Police”.
After the meeting, FORDA President Dr Manish told the media, “Today we had a meeting with the health minister. He said that there is a Supreme Court hearing on 6 January and he will try his best that the counselling date will come on that day. We said that we need a written apology from Delhi Police for police beating and abusing resident doctors. The minister said that we’ll get a written apology too. He also promised cancellation of the FIRs registered against the doctors.”
With no satisfactory resolution in sight, it seems the year will end on a dismal note for the health sector in Delhi.
(Cover: Resident doctors and students staged a protest at the Safdarjung Hospital against delays in counselling for NEET-PG PHOTOS: Anmol Nath Bali)