I am a senior resident at Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi and General Secretary of the Resident Doctor's Association.
Doctors all over the country are facing a shortage of manpower. Last Monday, I worked for 36 hours straight and this is something that is very common for us now. We are made to work for almost 100 hours a week and almost 36 hours in a stretch. Getting four hours of sleep also seems like a distant dream and if a patient gets sick in the night, even that is gone.
Now, looking at the present situation of our country, we might face a threat of a third-wave of COVID-19, as the cases of the new variant have been detected here.
I want to tell you that we're extremely short-staffed and we are working with very limited manpower. We won't be able to handle the situation, the second wave was devastating and it exhausted our health care system.
During the first and the second wave, we struggled so much with COVID and we do not want to repeat the situation again.
Last year, we were forced to stay in the same clothes for days because none of us could take the risk of taking a break. We could only manage to have a single meal in a day. We have survived on biscuits and samosas from the canteen.
One of my friends who works at the Government Medical College, Nagpur, told me that his working hours have stretched out for so long that he now sleeps in the ward room itself.
I am apprehensive that our healthcare system might collapse in such a scenario as we are lacking the extra working hands that's required in such critical situation.
Usually, in hospitals there are three batches of junior residents who are working, but because of the delay and postponement of NEET-PG 2021 counselling, for the past one year, there are only two batches who are currently working and the seats for an entire batch are vacant.
From January onwards, third-year PG residents are going to give their exams and would be preparing for that and the strength would further reduced to only one-third. For an example, if there were a 100 doctors working it will be reduced to only 33.
The doctors who are working in various hospitals are extremely overburdened and exhausted.
How can you expect that they would be able to deliver quality care to the patients while working for so many hours in a stretch?
Many residents are approaching us and telling that they are completely burnt out and exhausted mentally and physically.
They want to resign or they just want to go back to their homes because they haven't taken any leaves for almost two years. Earlier, it was because of COVID and now they are short-staffed and therefore, they are not getting any leaves even after falling sick themselves.
This is a very pathetic situation to be in and you can, yourself, imagine that with such a shortage of staff what can be done.
Why Are We Protesting?
More than 45,000 MBBS doctors even after qualifying NEET-PG 2021 exam are helplessly sitting homes due to the continuous delay and postponement in conduction of the PG counselling.
The exam that was planned to happen in January 2021 and the postgraduates should have joined the various hospitals by May or June 2021, but the exam was postponed twice because of COVID-19. The counselling has not even started yet.
The delay in counselling is because of the new reservation policy and the matter is subjudice.
Initially, we were waiting patiently with the hope that the Supreme Court of India will give due importance and priority to this matter because it is affecting the healthcare of the entire country.
But to our surprise, we were disappointed by continuous delay and further dates given by them.
Earlier, it got postponed till Diwali and then again got delayed in November. Now it has been further postponed to 6 January 2022.
It has already been seven months. The hospitals across the country are short-staffed and they are working with limited manpower and even in January, we don't expect even after the hearing, the court will announce the judgement and the council would happen soon.
In the hearing the Supreme Court told us that a four-week period is required by the Ministry of Social Justice to prepare the report regarding EWS criteria to the court and announce the next date of hearing for 6 January 2022.
We have a single demand. We just want the NEET-PG 2021 counselling process to start as soon as possible so that the postgraduates can join.
Unfortunately, we had to go on a nationwide protest which started from 27 November.
We stopped all the OPD services as a symbol of disappointment and on the very first day of the protest we were called by the health minister for a meeting.
'Our Trust Was Broken'
During the meeting, we were assured that within the next three working days is on 1 December, the Ministry of Social Justice will submit the report about EWS criteria and announced the date of hearing to be 6 January 2022.
We trusted what we were told and thought no protest would be required after that.
But we were shocked to see on 30 November, Ministry of Social Justice released an official document stating that three weeks time is required by them to submit the report in the Supreme Court.
We felt betrayed and cheated because it was not in the concordance with the verbal assurance given to us by the health minister.
We started the protest on 27 November with a hope that authorties would listen to us.
But it's been days and the only thing we have received in return are fake promises and false hopes.
So, from Monday, 6 December, we have decided to boycott emergency services as well because there’s no other option left.
We have already seen in the first-two years of the pandemic that health care system is something we should focus upon. If we will ignore the miserable plight of doctors and the shortage of doctors all over India then how we will be able to manage the third wave of COVID-19.
It is our request to the government to kindly look into this matter so that the doctors working in such unacceptable conditions all over the country can get a helping hand to share their work and to impart better quality of patient care.
(The author is a resident doctor at Safdarjung hospital, New Delhi. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)