As the indefinite strike by doctors belonging to five medical colleges in Delhi entered the sixth day, hundreds of patients, especially from weaker sections, were left high and dry as the striking medicos denied treatment for them.
Hospital guards posted at the emergency and outpatients department (OPD) are turning away distraught patients. Hundreds of others, women and children included, keep waiting for hours before going away disappointed.
The junior protesting doctors, opposed to affirmative quotas in institutions of higher learning, may have set up some temporary camps to treat some patients but it is clearly not enough for the poor who cannot afford private medical care.
"I have been waiting outside the emergency ward for almost four hours to avail treatment for my four-year-old son who is suffering from a chronic breathing problem," complained Bhikari Yadav from Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh on the edge of the Indian capital.
"I was turned away at Safdarjung hospital. Now I am here at AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) hoping someone will look at my child," Yadav told IANS, sounding pathetic. "I am here today at the cost of a day's earning. What I want is doctor's attention."
Afsana, 21, who came to AIIMS to get her tumour treated, also related her negative experience. "I was turned away by guards and when I asked the reason, they told me to read newspapers and watch TV.
"Though I can understand the concern of the protesting doctors, they also must understand the plight of thousands of poor people," she said.
Since Friday evening, resident doctors at the five medical colleges in New Delhi have been on an indefinite strike to protest against a plan to reserve 27 percent more seats in higher education institutions for the underprivileged.
Shanti Devi, after suffering neglect by doctors for two days, cannot hold back her tears. Her son suffers from chicken pox.
"For the last two days, I had to return from both Safdarjung and AIIMS. Today I am not in a mood to return. His condition is becoming worse and I will not go without showing my son to doctors," she said outside the Sardarjung Hospital's emergency ward, tears rolling down her cheeks.
The Sardarjung Hospital and AIIMS are located close to one another, separated by a busy road. So patients run from one place to another, praying they would get some attention somewhere.
At the Guru Teg Bahadur hospital in east Delhi, only 70 doctors have been working as against a total strength of 580 doctors.
"It's certainly a tough situation. Due fewer doctors, the patients are not completely satisfied with our treatment. We hope things will improve soon," said a senior doctor at GTB.
Health Minister A. Ramadoss Wednesday told reporters that notices had been sent to senior resident doctors to join work at the earliest.
"We have warned resident doctors that they will lose their jobs if they don't rejoin work. We have also asked railway and army doctors to lend their support to the hospitals in Delhi," Ramadoss said.
Responding to the health ministry's direction, 70 doctors have rejoined duty at Safdarjung Hospital and 81 at the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in the heart of the city.
But most resident doctors are in no mood to relent.
"We are not going to call off our strike till a total rollback decision is conveyed to us. Now the ball is in the government's court, and we expect the prime minister to come out with a solution," said Arun Wadhawan, a member of the resident doctors association at the University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS).