Government medical services in Andhra Pradesh came to a standstill with junior doctors and postgraduate students indefinite strike enters the second day.
Patients had a harrowing time as junior doctors boycotted emergency services. Patients seeking immediate medical assistance had to approach private healthcare centres.
Chaos prevailed at the Osmania General Hospital and the Gandhi Hospital, the two biggest government-run hospitals in Hyderabad, and the Niluofer Hospital, the largest hospital for children in the state, as medicos stayed away to press their demands.
Hospitals in Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Guntur, Warangal, Kurnool and Tirupati failed to take steps to mitigate the hardships faced by the patients.
The Andhra Pradesh High Court asked the state government to submit a report Friday on the services being provided in government-run hospitals in the wake of the strike. The court adjourned to Friday the hearing on a public interest litigation against the strike.
The Andhra Pradesh Medical Students Association and the Andhra Pradesh Junior Doctors Association are demanding repeal of government order no.19, which gives nine more marks to in-service doctors in the entrance test for postgraduate medical courses.
They contend that the order gives undue advantage to in-service doctors, dilutes the quality of medical education and reduces the number of seats for fresh medical graduates.
The junior doctors are also unhappy over a decision that they would have to sign a bond to work for three years in government-run hospitals after post-graduation.
Health Minister K. Rosaiah said that violation of the bond would attract a penalty of Rs.2 million. Already the junior doctors are bound to work in government hospitals under a bond. But many leave without honouring it, he said.
"The government spends money on producing a doctor and he has a responsibility towards the society," said Rosaiah.
The minister said a shortage of professors was affecting medical education in the state. He pointed out that the Guntur Medical College lost 25 seats because of faculty shortage.
In the state capital, only five cardiologists were available as against the sanctioned strength of 77.
"If this trend continues, we may have to shut down the government medical colleges," said Rosaiah.
This is the second time in less than a year that junior doctors are on strike. In June last year, it was at the intervention of the high court that they had called off a seven-day strike. They had also struck work for 42 days in 2003.