Chennai: Taking a tough stand against the protesting doctors, the Tamil Nadu government issued an ultimatum and asked the doctors to return to work by Friday, failure to which their seats will be declared 'vacant'. The Federation of Government Doctors Association (FOGDA) decided to continue its indefinite strike even after they received a show-cause notice from the state government on Wednesday.
Doctors under the banner of FOGDA have been on an indefinite strike since October 25 pressing their charter of demands which included time-bound promotions and ensuring appropriate patient-doctor ratio across hospitals.
On Thursday, Chief Minister K Palaniswami made it clear these doctors were paid to serve the poor and asserted the government will not remain a mute witness if the people were affected.
"Poor people come to government hospitals...and many are affected (due to the strike).. those refusing to serve these poor people, the government will not remain mute witness to that," he told reporters in Salem.
He said only those from "unrecognised" associations were staging the protest and that too with an aim of "bringing disrepute to the government."
Health Minister C Vijayabaskar said: “Of the 4,683 doctors who have been protesting, 2,160 doctors have returned to duty today. We urge the remaining 2,523 doctors to return to duty by tomorrow morning.”
Though earlier in the day he said positions of doctors not returning to duty by today will be declared 'vacant' and the procedures to fill them up would start, he softened his stand later, allowing them time till Friday morning to join work.
"Let them (agitating doctors) announce withdrawing strike and return to work, we will then hold talks with them," he told reporters here.
However, the process to appoint new doctors was also on, he said in an apparent warning to the agitating professionals.
Though the government was aware of the importance of doctors, it cannot be "compelled" to implement their demands, he said.
The government was, however, considering their demands, the Minister added.
However, DMK Chief MK Stalin lashed out at the state government for issuing a warning to the protesting doctors. Stalin had met the doctors who were protesting earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Madras High Court will hear a case on the ongoing doctors’ strike on Friday after a petition was filed on the grounds that the patients are suffering because of the strike.
Over 16,000 doctors participated in the indefinite strike that began last week. One of the associations that was part of the FOGDA withdrew strike on Tuesday after talks with the state government.
(With PTI inputs)