Resident doctors from several major central and state-run government hospitals in Delhi protesting against the delay in National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) 2021 counselling were urged by Union Minister for Health, Mansukh Mandaviya, to call off their strike in “public interest.”
The doctors agitating against the delayed admissions to medical colleges under the NEET postgraduate exam, demanding for the process to be expedited were met with a police crackdown on Monday, resulting in injuries on both sides.
The NEET exam, initially scheduled in December 2020, was delayed due to the pandemic and was finally held in September 2021. The counselling for admissions to medical colleges however got delayed, which sparked the protest, with many doctors claiming this delay to be unacceptable.
The resident doctors’ groups in Delhi have also threatened to impose a complete shutdown on the medical services to make their concerns heard. The doctors’ protests have also affected patients and their families as healthcare services are hit hard due to the agitation.
“We are protesting as a last resort. The government is not listening. What should we do?” a resident doctor in Delhi told NDTV.
Following Mandaviya’s statement, where he urged the protesting doctors to call off the strike in “public interest”, FORDA president Dr Manish Kumar addressed the doctors and suggested that protests be called off till 6 January, when the hearing about the issue of delayed admissions will take place in the apex court.
The resident doctors are also worried that the deferment of admissions of a fresh batch of doctors will lead to an increase in workload on the medical staff which in light of the Omicron variant and the possibility of a third wave, is adding to their list of concerns.
“We are already short of doctors, and from March onwards, it will become more acute. What does the government think? We are machines or what? Are we not supposed to care about our own health, our own sleep, or anything? We will just die working”, said Gynecologist, Lovely Singh, from Safdarjung Hospital to The Quint.
“More than 40,000 potential resident doctors are sitting at home because this counselling is not being carried out. That is huge manpower that is sitting at home. These people should be mobilised as early as possible and should get to work. This will be helpful for the healthcare system. Right now, the shortage is affecting the health system in the worst manner”, Dr Prashant, a neurologist at GB Pant Hospital, told The Quint.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has written a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, strongly condemning the police action and asking the government to consider the demands of the agitating doctors.
The doctors of South Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital had a face-off with the police on Monday night, where the police personnel allegedly manhandled the protesters. The police however denied using excessive force during the agitation.
“The doctors had assembled illegally, due to which they had to be detained. They had blocked the main roads. Everyone was released later and no case against anyone was filed,” police officer PS Yadav told NDTV.
Resident doctors marching towards the Supreme Court from Maulana Azad Medical College on Monday were allegedly brutally thrashed, dragged and detained by the Delhi Police Personnel.
Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) has labelled the event as a “black day in the history of the medical fraternity.”