Doctors affiliated to the Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA), an umbrella body of 25 hospitals in the national capital, were on an indefinite strike last week over a slew of demands like proper security, accommodation and adequate availability of generic drugs in hospitals. The Delhi government told the resident doctors to call off their strike. Later, Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) was invoked. Even then the doctors refused to report back to work.
FORDA comprises doctors from 22 Delhi government hospitals and three central government-run hospitals, Safdarjung, Ram Manohar Lohia and Lady Hardinge. Not just the out-patient departments (OPDs), but also the emergency wards across Delhi government hospitals wore a deserted look after the resident doctors launched their strike. However the patients suffered because of the strike.
18-year-old Anuj, had suffered serious injuries on the head and eye when he was run over by a truck. His father first took him to a nearby hospital for treatment and then to Lok Nayak Jaya Prakash hospital. However, Anuj's father was asked to take him elsewhere because there were no doctors in the emergency ward to attend on him. Anuj's father Ram Prasad, who is a small farmer in Uttar Pradesh, said, "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."
Like Anuj, many others were turned away by hospitals due to lack of doctors in the emergency wards across government hospitals in Delhi. A nursing staff at Lok Nayak hospital emergency ward confirmed that there were no resident doctors in the emergency ward due to the strike. Only the nursing and paramedical staff were working in the emergency ward.
Sumit Katheria, aged 15 years, 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 with no doctor to attend on him. Sumit's father Prem Pal said, "The staff at G.B. Pant hospital told us that nothing was going to happen today (Tuesday) because there was no doctor."
Even 10-month-old Akhil, who has been undergoing treatment at Lok Nayak hospital for the past five-six months for a heart and spinal cord condition, had to return home unattended as there were no doctors in the pediatric OPD. Akhil's father, Nabbu, said, "We got an appointment for today, but with the doctors' strike, the OPD was closed today."
However, Lok Nayak hospital medical superintendent (MS) Sidharth Ramji said, "There were enough doctors in the emergency ward to treat the patients, 340 patients were treated 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."
Meanwhile, at Ram Mahohar Lohia hospital, although the OPDs and emergency ward were functioning, the total strength of doctors present was less than half the normal strength. Ramji further added, "The Delhi government has agreed to fulfill the demands of resident doctors. I don't know why the residents are not joining back to work."
Savitri Singh, 60, who is a patient of cervical spondylotic myelopathy, was seen lying outside the OPD, gasping for breath while waiting for her turn to see the doctor in the neurology OPD. Savitri's son Pappu said, "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."