The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) called an indefinite strike on Saturday, demanding increased security in hospitals, after two doctors, including a woman doctor, were allegedly beaten up by a patient's relatives at the state-run JJ Hospital, according to media reports.
Nearly 400 resident doctors of the JJ Hospital went on strike following the incident. Police arrested five persons in connection with the assault, however, the doctors refused to call off the strike until their demands were fulfilled.
A team of five doctors will meet state Medical Education Minister Girish Mahajan on Monday to discuss various measures that can be adopted to ensure that such incidents can be prevented in the future, CNN-News18 reported.
The assault occurred on Saturday morning when Zaida Sanaullah Sheikh (45), a resident of Mumbra who was being treated for a gall bladder ailment, died.
Her family members alleged that Sheikh's death was caused due to negligence on the doctors' part and beat up Dr Atish Parikh and a woman doctor who were on duty, a police official said.
They also allegedly ransacked the ward. CCTV footage of the incident went viral on social media. Police arrested five members of Sheikh's family, including a woman, for the assault. According to The Indian Express, another accused, a relative of Sheikh, is absconding.
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According to the Hindustan Times, the doctors continued their strike on Sunday despite an assurance from the state government that it would deploy 1,100 security guards in state hospitals. The strike entered its third day on Monday.
What are the doctors' demands?
After the incident, the hospital found that the emergency alarm system " proposed two years ago and intended for the purpose of alerting security personnel " had not been installed.
The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) alleged that despite repeated requests, there was no adequate security at the hospital. MARD president Dr Sarang Donarkar, in a letter to the Dean of JJ Hospital, claimed that the number of security guards has been reduced to half.
According to the Hindustan Times report, doctors have demanded the immediate installation of a centralised alarm system to alert security personnel. They have also sought the deployment of at least two guards for each ward.
"According to the demand, apart from the existing 180 security personnel, we will need 200 more. We will send the proposal to the state government. Even the alarm system will be hopefully installed immediately," Dr S Nandankar, dean of JJ Hospital, was quoted as saying in the report.
The MARD alleged that an enhanced security system, which was promised to the medicos a year ago, was only seen on paper so far and no steps had been implemented, DNA reported.
The report quoted Donakar, who also works at the JJ Hospital, as saying, "We will call off the strike only when we see the implementation of security system on the ground. Unless our demand is fulfilled, we won't work."
The doctors have also sought the installation of panic buttons at the hospital, The Indian Express reported.
The situation so far
Representatives of the MARD from JJ Hospital met Nanandkar and Dr Prakash Wakode, joint director, Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) on Sunday. However, the doctors continued the strike for the second day after the meetings failed to yield a solution, The Hindu reported.
Several meetings were also held with members of the MARD, the public health department, the medical education department and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis over the weekend, with the objective of increasing security of hospitals, The Hindustan Times reported.
"In a meeting attended by public health minister Deepak Sawant and officials, we decided that 1,100 security personnel will be appointed in the next 15 days. Until then, adequate police protection will be provided at hospitals. We will inform the Bombay High Court about the decision," the report quoted Mahajan as saying on Sunday. However, MARD demanded a written assurance from the state government that the measures would be implemented and refused to call off the strike without it.
Directorate Medical Education Research (DMER) Director Pravin Shingare noted that the hospital was promised panic buttons after attacks on doctors last year. However, the panic buttons were not installed. The Indian Express report Shingare as saying, "We had appointed security forces at specific points in the hospital, including emergency wards and intensive care units. Now, we will appoint guards in the wards of government hospitals. We did not install panic buttons at the hospital, as was promised after attacks on doctors last year. We will do so now."
According to The Free Press Journal, Donarkar stated that the resident doctors would stop working in the emergency department if the administration failed to take adequate measures by Monday.
Support from fellow doctors
As a mark of solidarity with the staff of JJ Hospital, resident doctors of Sion Hospital will also skip work on Monday, the Hindustan Times reported.
Dr Alok Singh, president of KEM MARD stated that resident doctors in all other hospitals will wear black ribbons while working as a mark of protest against the incident, The Hindu reported.
Not the first such instance
According to NDTV, over 3,000 doctors in Maharashtra went on strike for five days in 2017 after more than two incidents of attacks on doctors were reported. Doctors at Delhi's AIIMS's emergency department had donned helmets in support of their counterparts in Maharashtra.
The state witnessed a series of attacks on doctors and hospital staff in March last year, including in Dhule, Shirpur, Nashik, Aurangabad and Mumbai, The Financial Express reported.
A resident doctor was brutally thrashed by a mob of more than 20 people in Dhule Civil Hospital in March 2017. Similarly, on 14 March last year, the family of a deceased pregnant woman vandalised a hospital in Shirpur, while three hospital employees of Nashik civil Hospital were attacked on 18 March, 2017 by the relatives of a patient.
With inputs from agencies