Patients suffer as Delhi’s doctors dig in heels

New Delhi, (IANS) Anuj, 18, suffered serious injuries on the head and his eye when he was run over by a truck on Sunday evening in northwest Delhi’s Bawana locality. His father first took him to a nearby hospital for treatment and then Lok Nayak Jaya Prakash hospital late in the night.

On Tuesday afternoon, Anuj’s father was asked to take him elsewhere because there were no doctors in the emergency ward to attend on him.

“The nurses at Lok Nayak hospital told us to take my son to some other hospital because there were no doctors available here. We’ll now take him to AIIMS,” said his father Ram Prasad, who is a small farmer in Uttar Pradesh.

Like Anuj, many others were turned away by hospitals due to lack of doctors in the emergency wards across Delhi’s government hospitals.

On Tuesday, the Delhi government told the resident doctors to call off their strike in the morning or the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) would be imposed. Later, ESMA was invoked at 4.00 p.m. when the doctors refused to report back to work.

Doctors affiliated to the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) — an umbrella body of 25 hospitals in the national capital — are on an indefinite strike since Monday over a slew of demands like proper security, accommodation and adequate availability of generic drugs in hospitals.

The association comprises doctors from 22 Delhi government hospitals and three central government-run hospitals — Safdarjung, Ram Manohar Lohia and Lady Hardinge.

Not just the OPDs (out-patient departments), but also the emergency wards across Delhi government hospitals wore a deserted look after the resident doctors launched their strike on Monday.

A nursing staff at Lok Nayak hospital emergency ward confirmed that there were no resident doctors in the emergency ward as well due to the strike. Only the nursing and paramedical staff could be seen working in the emergency ward.

“Only the nursing staff is working in the emergency ward. If the residents work in the emergency then what is the point of the strike,” wondered a nursing staff in the emergency ward of Lok Nayak hospital.

Sumit Katheria, 15, a cancer patient from Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh who was referred to G.B. Pant hospital from Lok Nayak hospital, was lying outside the hospital since morning with no doctor to attend on him.

“The staff at G.B. Pant hospital told us that nothing was going to happen today (Tuesday) because there was no doctor,” said Sumit’s father Prem Pal.

Even 10-month-old infant Akhil, who has been undergoing treatment at Lok Nayak hospital for the past five-six months for a heart and spinal cord condition and who was brought for check-up by his parents, had to return home unattended as there were no doctors in the OPD.

“We got an appointment for today, but with the doctors’ strike, the OPD was closed today,” said Akhil’s father, Nabbu, a resident of Rohini.

However, Lok Nayak hospital medical superintendent (MS) Sidharth Ramji was of the view that there were enough doctors in the emergency ward to treat the patients — 340 patients were treated on Monday and about 100 admitted.

“The consultants, senior consultants and medical officers are on duty and those who had applied for leave have been issued orders to report on duty,” said Ramji. Lok Nayak hospital has about 1,000 resident doctors.

Meanwhile, at Ram Mahohar Lohia hospital, though the OPDs and emergency ward were functioning, the total strength of doctors present was less than half the normal strength.

“The Delhi government has already agreed to fulfil their demands yesterday (Monday). I don’t know why the residents are not joining back to work,” Ramji added.

Savitri Singh, 60, who is a patient of cervical spondylotic myelopathy — the most common cause of spinal cord dysfunction in older people, was seen lying outside the OPD, gasping for breath while waiting for her turn to see the doctor in the neurology OPD.

“Her name in the OPD list is 88th and now only patient No.21 has gone inside. Her condition is deteriorating and I don’t know what to do. I took her to the emergency (ward) where they told me to take her to the doctor in the OPD as there was no one at the emergency. I had to carry her in my arms and run from emergency to the OPD,” said Savitri’s son Pappu from central Delhi’s Paharganj area.

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