Rajasthan doctors' strike claims 55 lives

Patients at government hospitals across Rajasthan continued to suffer as doctors continued their strike for the eighth day Wednesday, with the toll due to the agitation reaching 55, officials said.

The resident doctors did not turn up for work Wednesday even after some representatives of their association had called off the strike late Tuesday night.

A fraction of representatives said the strike was called off under pressure of the state government.

Meanwhile, some 6,000 government doctors continued their strike.

A total of 55 patients have died in hospitals across the state so far due to absence of doctors, officials said.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot Monday warned the striking doctors of public anger.

"We will be forced to take strict action against doctors for carrying out such strikes. Such strikes create anger amongst people and, therefore, doctors should resume work as soon as possible," said Gehlot.

All Rajasthan In-Service Doctors Association announced a delegation of representatives will negotiate with the government over their demands.

The members of the association have struck work since Dec 21, demanding a hike in salaries and parity with central government employees.

Gehlot Saturday directed the health department to authorise private hospitals to treat patients at approved rates.

The state government also sought help from doctors in the army, the Border Security Force and the railways.

Over 450 doctors have been arrested for violating the Rajasthan Essential Services Maintenance Act clamped by the government.

The state government has also hardened its stance.

"The government will consider their demands only after the doctors call off their strike," a senior medical and health department official told IANS.

Patients' wards in Jaipur's Sawai Man Singh Hospital remained deserted as people preferred to approach private hospitals for treatment. The condition was similar at other major hospitals here.

The situation in rural areas is expected to normalise soon as over 20,000 contract employees of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) struck a deal with the state government and agreed to end their strike Tuesday.

The NRHM contract employees were demanding permanent posts which, they claimed, were promised to them by the chief minister last year.

"The healthcare services in the rural areas will be restored after the end of the NHRM employees' strike. The government has promised to look into their demands," the official said.

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