Senior doctors in three medical colleges in Delhi went on mass casual leave Monday, joining resident doctors in their anti-quota protests but compounding the sufferings of patients.
The majority of senior doctors in Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS) and Safdarjung Hospital went on daylong leave to express their resentment against the government decision to implement 27 percent reservation for other backward classes in higher education institutions.
"We are reiterating our demand before the government to review the implication of reservations in the last 60 years through a non-political commission but they are not ready to accept. We are not against any caste but just for political purposes, a section of society should not be neglected," said N.P. Singh, general secretary of the MAMC faculty association.
He said the faculties of five medical colleges in Delhi were planning to write to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on the matter.
The resident doctors, students and interns of five medical colleges in the capital have been on strike since May 12 to protest the government proposal. Last week, both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Kalam appealed to protestors all over the country to call off their strike, but to no avail.
On day 18 of the indefinite strike Monday, patients continued to suffer as OPD services were almost paralysed in the three hospitals where senior doctors went on leave.
"My wife is suffering from kidney complications but when I brought her to Safdarjung Hospital, attendants in the OPD told me to come tomorrow as doctors were on strike," said Shankar Gupta, a resident.
"I don't know why the government is not doing anything to help poor people get proper treatment," Gupta, 43, added.
In Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) Hospital, which is part of MAMC, the situation was even worse. Hundreds of patients could be seen outside the OPD waiting for doctors.
"What is the point of having hospitals if they do not provide treatment to patients? It's the poor people who are caught between the politicians and the protesting doctors," said Anand Ahuja, who had come for an X-ray.
But Singh said emergency and ICU services were running fine at LNJP. "We are concerned about patients and ICU and emergency care is being carried out," he said.
The Supreme Court Monday issued a notice to the centre on the reservation issue. Hearing a petition filed by advocate Ashok Thakur, the court asked the centre to define the OBC tag and the basis on which it has decided to implement 27 percent caste-based reservation.
On Tuesday, the faculty at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) has planned to go on a daylong hunger strike without affecting work. On Wednesday, the protesting medicos have called for a complete shutdown of all OPDs but emergency and casualty services will operate.
Students of the Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have also begun a relay hunger strike in their respective campuses.