Are doctors entitled to strike to press their grievances or not? The debate over ethics and responsibilities revived as ten infants reportedly died when junior doctors went on a strike in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, demanding the arrest of a legislator who assaulted them.
The story goes that the member of the Andhra Pradesh state legislative assembly (MLA), Asfar Khan, intervened when a quarrel erupted between a relative of his and a doctor at the state-run Niloufer hospital Sunday. As arguments heated up, he and his men assaulted a couple of doctors, it is said.
As the news spread, doctors in the region walked out of their respective hospitals demanding the arrest of Khan. The strike snowballed Monday forcing the police to step in. Eventually he was arrested, but by that time the damage had been done.
While some reports claimed that at least ten children died in the Niloufer hospital, including a four-day-old child - they had developed serious infections, but been left unattended because of the strike, it was stated. But the hospital authorities confirmed only six deaths.
B Mahesh from Yadgirigutta said he was forced to shift his 10-day-old child with a kidney ailment to a private hospital without getting a discharge paper. Twenty-five-year old Parvati from Hayathnagar saw her one-month-old son die in her lap after desperately waiting for a doctor. The hospital recorded it as a "brought dead" case.
"I rushed to the hospital hoping that the child would get treatment, but the doctors' strike snatched away my only son," said an inconsolable Parvati. Though 11 doctors and 30 nurses were requisitioned from other hospitals, most of them did not report till afternoon, officials said helplessly.
Hospital superintendent S Narsimha Rao said, "Niloufer gets a lot of critical cases. The patients were attended and given treatment but deaths could not be prevented. They did not happen due to the strike by PG doctors."
The legislator in question is already out on bail.