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TN: Pending Stipends Paid After Medical Interns Strike Work, Demand Monthly Disbursal

With the third wave of the pandemic hitting the state, the interns demand posting of medical officers in COVID wards and 14 days quarantine instead of seven days announced for healthcare professionals.
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Interns from Government Medical College Hospital, Chengalpattu protesting during the strike (Courtesy: TNMSA)

The interns of three government medical colleges in Tamil Nadu were forced to strike work owing to the delay in disbursement of stipend. The interns of different batches have complained of delayed payment for the past several months and held protests in April 2021.

The strike was withdrawn on January 13 after the administration of the respective hospitals assured to disburse the pending stipend immediately.

The Tamil Nadu Medical Students' Association (TNMSA) has urged the state government to ensure monthly disbursal of the stipend and set up a medical students welfare board to address the concerns of the students.

The association has also demanded to recruit more doctors in government medical colleges, considering the spike of COVID-19 cases and the increasing workload.

ENSURE REGULAR PAYMENT’

The interns, called CRRIs (Compulsory Rotatory Residential Internship), have been complaining of irregular payment of stipends, with payment being made once in three or four months.

Condemning the delay in payment, the interns belonging to the 2016 batch of government medical colleges in Tirunelveli, Chengalpattu and Vellore decided to strike from January 11.

The irregularity in payment of stipend has been a continuous issue. Instead of paying every month, the stipend is credited once in three or four months. The CRRIs depend heavily on this stipend, and we demand monthly disbursal henceforth,” said an office-bearer of the TNMSA.

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Interns of Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital holding talks with the administration (Courtesy: TNMSA)

The interns also demand the payment of Rs 15,000 announced as an incentive for frontline workers to be paid completely to the interns. The Department of Health and Family Welfare had issued a government order in November 2021.

But some of the colleges have paid Rs 7,000, while some have not paid anything to the interns as an incentive. The CRRIs worked hard during the previous wave of the pandemic and deserved to receive this incentive just like other frontline workers,” an intern said.

DEPUTE MEDICAL OFFICERS TO COVID DUTY’

The interns have also demanded to regulate the working hours and reduce the workload. The interns are working for more than 12 hours every day for eight months during the internship, as per a statement of the TNMSA.

In some departments, the interns work continuously for 24 hours, and in some emergency departments, the work extends beyond 48 hours without a break. This leads to severe stress for the interns,” the statement further added.

The interns also attributed the increase in workload to the lack of appointments in the government medical colleges. “We have never stayed away from treating the patients despite the severe workload. But, the necessary recruitment to ensure the patient-doctor ratio is not happening,” said another intern.

During the first and second waves of the pandemic, the government appointed medical officers, who are now posted in non-COVID duties. These doctors have not been provided accommodation for the past two months, and several medical colleges have not paid salaries to them, the TNMSA said.

With the number of fresh infections and active cases increasing, the medical officers must be posted back to COVID wards, and their monthly wages must be paid regularly,” demanded the TNMSA in a memorandum submitted to the secretary of Health and Family Welfare.

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