New Delhi: Even as the agitating junior doctors in West Bengal seemed to have softened their stand, the trouble may not end for Mamata Banerjee government as the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has decided to boycott work for a day on Monday in support of their striking colleagues in West Bengal. The decision may hit healthcare services at several government and private hospitals in the national capital.
The junior doctors in Bengal on Sunday evening asserted that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was free to decide the venue of the meeting with them, but stressed that it should be held in open.
Talking to the media after a two-and-half-hour-long meeting of their governing body, a spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors said, "We are keen to end this impasse. We are ready to hold talks with the chief minister at a venue of her choice, provided it is held in the open, in the presence of media persons, and not behind closed doors."
The spokesperson said the venue should be spacious enough to accommodate representatives from all medical colleges and hospitals in the state.
Banerjee had on Saturday invited the agitators for closed-door talks, but the offer was turned down by them.
The agitators had insisted that Banerjee visit the NRS Medical College and Hospital, the epicentre of the agitation. "We want to join our duties as early as possible in the best interests of the common people once all our demands are met with adequately and logically through a discussion. We are hopeful that the chief minister will be considerate enough to solve the problems," he said, adding that the strike would continue till a solution was worked out.
A source, however, said that the the doctors may not call off their strike as Banerjee would not agree for media presence in the meeting. The strike by IMA is set to further increase trouble for the Bengal government.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) had given the June 17 strike call with the withdrawal of non-essential health services across the country. IMA members will also stage a dharna at its headquarters in New Delhi.
Doctors at the Centre-run Safdarjung Hospital, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital, RML Hospital as well as Delhi government facilities such as GTB Hospital, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital, Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital and Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital will not function on Monday.
The apex medical body, IMA, said all outpatient departments (OPDs), routine operation theatre services and ward visits will be withdrawn for 24 hours from 6 am on Monday to 6 am Tuesday. Emergency and casualty services will continue to function, it said.
In a late night statement, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said it will not participate in the nationwide strike called by the IMA, but will take out a protest march from 8 am to 9 am Monday.
The Delhi Medical Association (DMA) and the Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA), on the other hand, have extended their support to IMA's strike call. "Emergent Executive Committee Meeting convened today decided to support the call given by IMA for withdrawal of non-essential services on 17th June (Monday) for 24 hours (6am to 6am) to protest against violence against doctors and hospitals. All clinics, nursing homes, diagnostic centres and hospitals are requested to shut down routine services," a statement by DMA said.
While doctors in Goa have decided to participate in the strike between 6am and 6pm, doctors in the centrally-sponsored JIPMER in Puducherry had on Saturday the OPD and in the laboratory and elective surgeries scheduled for Monday have been suspended.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Health Minister Shivanand S Patil has appealed to the doctors in the state to keep their protest "symbolic". In a letter to Karnataka chapter of IMA, which was released to the media, Patil condemned the attack on doctors in West Bengal recently and made a fervent appeal to those in the private and government hospitals in the state not to put ordinary citizens in trouble.
Junior doctors in West Bengal are on strike since June 11 after two of their colleagues were reportedly attacked and seriously injured by relatives of a patient who died at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata. In a show of solidarity, medical practitioners across the country chose not to work, leaving patients in the lurch.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Saturday asked states to consider enacting specific legislation for protecting doctors and medical professionals from any form of violence.