Strike paralyses medical service

Fears of a dangerous Sunday hang in the air with visarjan taking place and 3,000 resident doctors continue their strike into the fourth day

Medical services in the state continued to suffer on Saturday with the resident doctors' strike in all teaching government hospital entering day three, and talks with state and civic authorities reaching no logical end.

Mahinder's Friday surgery has now been pushed to Monday

The situation is set to get worse today during Ganesh visarjan, when casualty cases are usually higher. The authorities, however, claim they will manage the situation. "We have asked all senior doctors to be on duty around the clock during visarjan. We will neither turn away patients nor will we compromise on their treatment," said Dr Praveen Bangar of KEM hospital.

Dr Rahul Jadhav, General Secretary of Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors from JJ Hospital agreed with doctor Bangar and said, "If there is a mass casualty during visarjan, we will follow our oath and serve the hospital despite the strike."

According to the authorities, hospitals have managed well despite the strike. However, the situation at Sion hospital's outpatient department on Saturday, which saw just 108 patients coming in as compared to 2,000 that arrive on an average every day, tell a different story.

And Sion hospital is not an isolated example. Several hospitals have been emptying their wards by discharging patients before time. Admission cases have become negligible. Around 150 surgeries are planned on a daily basis, most of which have been postponed since the strike began.

The victims
Three year-olds Akshay Mahinder and Ashraf Shaikh who do not understand the implications of a strike, have become its victims.

Akshay is suffering from a cervical spine injury due to a motorbike accident, and needs urgent surgery. "His surgery was scheduled for Friday (Sion hospital). However, the strike began on Thursday and the doctors have asked us to wait till Monday. If the strike does not end, we will have to return to our village in Ahmednagar since we can't afford to stay in Mumbai for too long," said his father Ashok Mahinder.

Ashraf's story is similar. A resident of Govandi, he was admitted to Sion hospital on Wednesday for an eye surgery. The surgery to remove a sty was scheduled for Thursday but has now been postponed indefinitely because of the strike.

Striking politics
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray met the resident doctors at Sion hospital on Saturday morning and appealed that they resume work. Shortly after Thackeray's visit, Mayor Shraddha Jadhav also visited Sion hospital and invited representatives of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) to her residence in Dadar for talks. However, the representatives couldn't attend the meeting because their meeting with the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) got delayed.

Dr Rahul Jadhav said, "We have continued our strike because our demands have been neglected for years. Apart from higher security, we have asked authorities to sanction maternity leaves for female doctors and provide better hostel facilities."

"We had a meeting with the Director of DMER in the afternoon and they have called us for another meeting on Sunday," said Dr Pankaj Nalwade, President of MARD.

Dr Pravin Shingare, Director of DMER said, "They come up with new demands at every meeting. I've requested them to be on duty for visarjan but they have refused to cooperate."

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