The indefinite strike of the government doctors in Tamil Nadu entered the fifth day on Tuesday, October 29. A group of five doctors have also started a hunger strike in the Rajiv Gandhi Medical College Hospital in Chennai. There are reported disruptions in inpatient and outpatient services while emergency services are taken care of, including treatment for the increasing number of dengue patients.
The talks held on October 26 between the striking doctors and the health secretary ended without any positive outcomes. The government has not encouraged any talks since then resulting in the continuation of the strike.
The Federation of Government Doctors’ Association (FOGDA) has accused the state government of not fulfilling the promises made during the strike which was called off on August 27.
PAY ON PAR WITH UNION GOVERNMENT DOCTORS
The striking doctors have put forward four major demands including payscale on par with central government doctors, promotion based on Dynamic Assured Career Progression (DACP), maintenance of doctor- patient ratio and 50% reservation for government doctors in speciality and super speciality courses.
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The doctors affiliated to FOGDA claim that they are paid much less than their central government counterparts forcing them to undertake private practice. “The already stressful duty in government medical colleges and hospitals along with the private practice take a heavy toll on the doctors. If the pay band is on par with the central government doctors, the state government can indeed ban the private practice of the government doctors in the longer run,” said Dr Antan Uresh Kumar of FOGDA.
IMPLEMENT DACP IN STATE
The demand includes the implementation of promotion policies as per the DACP scheme in which the government doctors are entitled for promotions at 4th, 9th and 13th year of their service without linkages to the number of vacancies. The DACP was implemented from 2008 for the medical and dental doctors serving with ministries and departments of the union government. The FOGDA has been advocating the implementation of the scheme in Tamil Nadu.
MAINTAIN DOCTOR- PATIENT RATIO
The number of doctors has remained the same in spite of increasing number of medical colleges and intake of students since 2004. The doctors also claim that there is a steep increase in number of patients depending on the government hospitals for treatment owing to the increasing cost in private hospitals across the state. Antan added, “There has been a steady increase in the number of patients and we are unable to cater to their needs. This results in lack of medical attention to the socially and economically backward sections of the state.”
The organisation also demand the appointment of doctors in medical colleges and hospitals according to the number of students and the number of patients treated. Such a policy on doctor- patient ratio will ensure proper attention and treatment to the patients.
The state has been sanctioned with six more medical colleges in a recent order from the Medical Council of India adding 900 more MBBS seats in the state. As per media reports, three more medical colleges are being proposed by the state government. These increasing intake needs appointment of about 600 doctors and 300 staff nurses, paramedical staff and administrative staff.
PROVIDE QUOTA ON HIGHER EDUCATION
The Supreme Court rejected an appeal for providing separate quota for in-service candidates to postgraduate medical education. The doctors on protest said that those who serve in rural areas are affected by the order and the state government should consider providing preference for in-service candidates in higher education.
The doctors also alleged the continued reduction in seats has reduced the number of speciality and super speciality doctors from Tamil Nadu.
The FOGDA also demand an early solution to the strike to avert any further difficulties to the patients. They also claim that the expenditure towards meeting their demands could cost only Rs 300 crore per year which the government can spend from the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme.
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The government cited the model code of conduct as the reason to hold talks with the organisation after it sought six weeks time to decide on the demands. Following this, the two-day strike was withdrawn on August 27.
With the continuing increase of dengue cases and another round of heavy rain forecast for Chennai and southern Tamil Nadu, the doctors’ strike is likely to add to the troubles of the public.