Guwahati: Doctors in Assam were on a 24-hour strike on Tuesday to protest the assault on an elderly colleague at a tea garden that led to his death, officials said. Emergency services have been kept out of the purview of the stir.
Seventy three-year-old Dr Deben Dutta had succumbed to his injuries after being assaulted by relatives of a tea garden worker who died while undergoing treatment at a hospital at Teok Tea Estate in Jorhat district on Saturday.
Responding to a call by the Assam unit of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), doctors at government and private hospitals as well as consultation chambers stayed away from work from 6 am but attended emergency services, health department officials said.
The stir affected services in six government medical college hospitals and civil hospitals, family referral units and primary health centres. The doctors attended on patients in the emergency and casualty departments, they said.
Doctors of Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) took out a procession here to protest the attack, demanding justice for the slain doctor and security for medicos. They also staged sit-ins at several medical institutions.
One of participant doctors said, "We demand a permanent solution to attacks on medicos on duty. "Another doctor said that because of a few persons, the medicos are scared of extending services to all the people.
"The attack has undermined the service provided by doctors in rural areas and is compelling us to rethink about working there," a doctor of another hospital said.
"The people's representatives from the tea garden areas are silent (over the issue). It is their duty to guide those who indulge in violence and prevent them from doing so," he said.
While doctors claimed that emergency services are unaffected due to the stir, the patients said they faced problems due to the stir.
Gynaecologist Dr Nilima T Haque told PTI that operation theatres functioned normally. "I have assisted in four deliveries so far and am attending serious patients," she said.
Shreya Nath, a young intern at GMCH said she and her colleagues attended critical patients. Paresh Kalita, a resident of Chandmari area of the city, said his five-year old son was suffering from fever but there was no doctor at a private nursing home.
"I called up my child's pediatrician and she prescribed medicines over the phone. She asked me to bring my son to the nursing home once the 24-hour stir is over," he said.
The IMA has demanded that the Assam government ensure exemplary punishment to the culprits and beef up security measures like installing surveillance cameras in all health establishments, including those in tea gardens.
More than 30 people have been taken into custody from Teok tea estate in connection with the doctor's killing. Inspector General of Police (law and order) Deepak Kedia visited the tea estate to take stock of the situation.
Jorhat Deputy Commissioner Roshni Aparanji Korati had ordered a magisterial inquiry into the assault on Dutta, who was working in the tea garden hospital after his retirement without remuneration.
Following the incident, the Amalgamated Plantations Private Ltd that owns Teok Tea Estate, has declared a "lock out" in the tea garden till further notice as it "apprehended further danger to life and property of managerial personnel and their families".
In Jorhat town doctors, pharmacists and para-medical personnel held a dharna in front of the deputy commissioner's office demanding action against those responsible for the assault on Dr Dutta, besides amending law to ensure security for the medicos.
IMA state branch president Satyajit Borah had said that incidents of assault on doctors in the state are on the rise.