Doctors’ Strike: Saviours Made Scapegoats

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Doctors Strike
Image Credits: The Japan Times

Doctor’s across India are participating in a strike which began from 6 AM Monday, 17th June and will go on till 6 am Tuesday, 18th June. While the strike in Kolkata has entered its 7th day, hospitals such as AIIMS Delhi, Lucknow’s King George Medical University (KGMU), JIPMER, 40,000 doctors from Maharashtra and doctors from Goa, Tripura, Karnataka, Assam, Gujarat, Raipur, Patna, Punjab, Telangana and other states of the country have responded to the Indian Medical Association’s call for the nationwide stir to protest the abuse of doctors and unsafe work conditions.

The impetus to the current strike was the attack on the intern doctor Paribaha Mukhopadhyay of the Nil Ratan Sircar (NRS) Medical College and Hospital on June 10, when a brick was hurled at his head. The accused were protesting the death of Mohammad Shahid (75) who they believed passed away because of medical negligence. The intern suffered a skull fracture, but his situation has since stabilised and said to be improving. In the aftermath of this attack, the junior doctors shut the gates to NRSMCH and sat on ‘dharna’ for action against the responsible. After the health minister Chandrima Bhattacharya informed that four people had been arrested in connection to the incident, the doctors agreed to lift the demonstration but stated that they would not report to OPD the next day as a sign of protest. Post the events of Tuesday, the state government and the doctors have been locked in a standstill over the proposed resolution of the issue, the manner and venue of the discussion.

Doctors strike
Image Credits: Dailyhunt

Over the week the protest has garnered the attention of the media, the citizens and has set off a Twitter frenzy with the Centre calling for strict action against the accused in the case and for the passing of a law to make abuse against doctors a punishable and non-bailable offence. The strike has attracted moral questioning over the alleged ethical violations being committed by the doctor in accordance with their Hippocratic oath. In response to this, an article published in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics in 2014 by Mpho Selemogo can be cited. In the paper, the author has cited 6 points that could validate a doctors’ strike.

  • Just cause and right intention – Unsafe work conditions hamper doctors from executing their duties.
  • Proportionality – The strike proportionately handles emergency departments and scheduled follow up for surgeries are being held as well.
  • Reasonable hope of success – This criterion is required to ensure that public health is not disrupted for a futile reason.
  • Last resort – Doctors must pursue all alternative and less disruptive measures for a strike to be justified.
  • Legitimate authority – The Indian Medical Association a legitimate authority on the issue has called for the nationwide strike.
  • Formal Declaration – The 24-hour strike on Monday was announced a day in advance on June 16, 2019.

The Kolkata doctors and the Government have agreed to come together for negotiations as per the request of the doctors in a video recorded meet at 3 pm.

The netizen community and the citizens have been very divided on their stance on this issue, while some are criticising the doctors for violating their duties towards their patients, many others have come out in support of their protest to make their workplace a safe environment and their safety a guarantee by making hospital secure zones with enough precautions and security.