COVID-19: After Outrage, Karnataka Hikes Stipends of Resident Docs
Despite fighting on the frontlines of COVID-19, resident doctors are paid the lowest stipends in the country.
Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
In a huge relief to over 8,000 resident doctors in Karnataka, the state government has decided to hike the monthly stipends to be paid to interns and postgraduate doctors following media reports of their dissatisfaction with the authorities.
The stipends had been last revised in 2015, and doctors complained that their stipends were far lower than their counterparts in other states.
Speaking to the press, medical education minister R Sudhakar said that a long standing demand of the frontline workers was being met.
“For interns, we hiked the stipend to Rs 30,000. For PG students of 1-3 years, we have hiked it to Rs 45,000, Rs 50,000 and Rs 55,000 respectively. We have also hiked the stipends for doctors doing their super-speciality,” he said.
Fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, the doctors had said that they risked their lives on a daily basis, only to have just a few thousand rupees left every month from the stipend that they receive.
Doctors said that while their stipend was last hiked in 2015, the fees was increased five-fold without a warning in 2019, putting immense financial pressure on them to meet their daily needs. Many doctors pointed out that their counterparts in other states were being compensated much more fairly.
Delhi pays a stipend of more than Rs 80,000. Maharashtra pays around Rs 55,000, Kerala Rs 50,000 and Haryana pays Rs 60,000. We, the resident doctors in Karnataka, are being paid only Rs 30,000 inspite of high tuition fees of Rs 1,30,000. So where is the justice?Dr Sahana, Dermatology Resident
No Financial Security
After spending years getting their MBBS degree and then specialising in the fields of their choice, the doctors are well in their mid-to-late 20s, and are still forced to rely on their parents and others for financial assistance.
Dr Dayanand Sagar, a psychiatry resident and president of Bangalore Medical College Research Institute of Resident Doctors association said many doctors were opting out of serving in Karnataka.
“I belong to Karnataka and I decided to work here so as to serve my people. Now I am not sure about the decision. With Karnataka paying the least for a resident doctor in the entire country, I feel I made a wrong choice. If you look at the trend, with every passing year, many doctors across the country are opting for other states than Karnataka,” he said.
“The average working hours of a PG resident is more than 100 hours a week. We never complain nor will we ever complain, all we ask is humane treatment and a basic pay to meet our daily needs, “ said Dr Gowri, Anaesthesia Resident.
Despite CM Yediyurappa’s assurances in late 2019 about resolving the stipend and fees issues of resident doctors, no action has been taken.
Battling Dehydration, Suffocation due to Long Hours in PPE
“Wearing PPEs for such long hours, sometimes 12-13 hours, causes severe dehydration, breathing difficulties, hypoxia, not to mention pain.But the physical scars left by the masks is nothing compared to the scars on our morale that is being caused due to the justice being denied by our government,” said one resident doctor.
‘Not Paid Stipend for 15 Months’
Meanwhile, there is another crisis brewing in JJM medical College in Karnataka’s Davangere.
As many as 133 postgraduate doctors and 97 interns have not been paid their stipends for the last 15 months, since they took admission in the private aided college in 2018.
Doctors say that they are stuck between the college management and state government’s directorate of medical education, who keep passing the buck for stipend payment to each other.
“We have taken personal loans to pay fees. Inspite of being independent we are relying on our parents. We are not able to ethically go on strike as our priority is patients and caring for the public, especially in times of crisis. . We are still working everyday, but we are only asking for what is owed to us. The medical education minister had said that he would ask the college management to pay our stipends, but there has been no action. We are suffering daily,” said Dr Harish Kumar, MD in pharmacology, JJM medical college.
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