Patients were made to suffer, as doctors belonging to the government hospitals in Mumbai didn't turn up to work for the fourth consecutive day. The strike called on, by around 2,500 doctors, denied the patients of any healthcare services thereby adding their woes.
The situation is likely to aggravate in the days ahead with doctors in other cities like Pune and Aurangabad also joining the strike in a show of solidarity and to put pressure on the government to give in to their demands.
"We have asked public hospitals across the state to join the strike and put pressure on authorities to accept our demands," said a member of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), which is spearheading the agitation.
Mumbai doctors from 15 government-run hospitals have stayed away from work since Monday demanding better security while on the job after relatives of a patient manhandled a doctor.
The agitating doctors have defied the government's ultimatum that they may lose their jobs if the strike was not ended at the earliest.
The state government invoked the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) Wednesday night and asked the doctors to return to work at the earliest or face deregistration of their licenses.
Scores of patients were returned from the hospitals or made to wait for hours as authorities struggled to cope with emergency cases with the help of junior doctors.
"I have been waiting here for the last five hours with my father, who has high fever and a breathing problem, but there is no one to take care of him," said a harried Dilip Jadhav, outside the KEM Hospital in central Mumbai's Parel area.
"They (the KEM Hospital authorities) are telling me to take him to a private hospital. If I had that much money, I wouldn't have come here in the first place," added Jadhav.
Patients could be seen lying unattended in the corridors of many hospitals as the striking doctors shouted slogans denouncing the government.