Healthcare services in Mumbai were crippled as the striking doctors were determined to intensify their strike thereby leaving the patients high and dry. All the government hospitals in Mumbai suffered due to absence of medical staffs.
Over 2,500 doctors from 15 government-managed hospitals in this bustling city of over 15 million people have stayed away from work since Feb 27, demanding better security while on the job after relatives of a patient manhandled a doctor.
The doctors are also demanding an increase in their stipend and improvement in their working conditions.
Doctors of select hospitals from six other cities in Maharashtra like Pune and Nagpur have also joined the strike in a show of solidarity, badly crippling healthcare services.
The protesting Mumbai doctors said they would continue their protests despite the government toughening its stance and cancelling the registration of nearly 150 doctors from three city hospitals.
"The strike will continue even if the government terminates the registration of all the doctors who are on strike," said a spokesperson of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), which is spearheading the strike.
"It is very unfortunate that instead of trying to resolve our problems in an amicable way the government is resorting to high handed measures like terminating registration and throwing doctors out of their hostels," he added.
"Although we do understand the suffering of the patients and sympathise with them, the general people should also understand our problems. We are fighting for the betterment of the overall healthcare system."
A day after debarring 150 doctors from practising, an official of the state health department said such tough actions would be initiated against a host of others for failing to respond to the government's ultimatum to return to work.
"We are willing to talk and look into their demands with an open mind but before that they have to resume their duties. They cannot hold the government to ransom like this," said the official.
The state government had invoked the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) Wednesday night and asked doctors to return to work at the earliest or face deregistration of their licenses.
Hundreds of patients continued to wait in government-run hospitals across Mumbai as the authorities struggled to cope with emergency cases with the help of skeletal staff.
"I was asked to get my father admitted into the hospital Wednesday for a heart operation. But now they are not even taking a look at him," said Rakesh Ahire, sitting with his aged parents in the crowded corridor of KEM Hospital.
"I have been waiting here for the last four days and I have no clue how long we have to wait like this. They (the hospital authorities) are asking us to take my father to a private nursing home, as his condition is not very good.
"But if I had that much money with me I wouldn't have come here at all. Now, we are only praying that the strike comes to an end at the earliest," said a harried Ahire.
Scores of patients were seen lying in the corridors of various government-run hospitals as the striking doctors shouted slogans outside, denouncing the government.