Medical services and operations were affected in hospitals across several states on Friday, 11 December as doctors joined the protest by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) against the Centre’s law enabling Ayurvedic doctors to practice surgery.
While doctors in several states took to streets to denounce the decision, many in other states wore black bands in a show of solidarity.
Doctors from medical colleges, government services, general practitioners, specialists, resident doctors and medical students united for a 12-hour bandh from 6 am to 6 pm, against the three contentious moves by the Centre, which include the latest amendment by the CCIM, where Ayurvedic postgraduate students could receive formal training to perform 66 types of medical procedures.
The protests took place in several states including Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana among others. The doctors believe that the move will encourage the quackery and the patients’ safety would be undermined severely.
45,000 Doctors, 5,000 Hospitals in TN Withdraw Services
A majority of Indian Medical Association (IMA) members, including doctors and corporate hospitals in Tamil Nadu, participated in the 12-hour withdrawal of medical services.
“We have about 45,000 doctors as our members and about 5,000 hospitals in Tamil Nadu. They have withdrawn their services, other than emergency and COVID-related services, to demand the withdrawal of Central Council of Indian Medicine's (CCIM) notification dated 19 November on PG ayurveda education, National Education Policy 2020 and the four committees set up by Niti Aayog for integration of healthcare systems,” AK Ravikumar, Secretary, IMA-Tamil Nadu, told IANS.
He said that the central government has permitted Ayush doctors to carry out nearly five dozen types of surgeries, risking patients' lives.
“At a time when modern medicine specialisation is moving towards micro-specialisation, the central government’s policy is nothing but a ‘masala’ system of medicine,” Ravikumar said.
He said that the dentists' association too, have extended their support to the strike.
‘Move Will Encourage Quackery’: Delhi Doctors Protest
The doctors of several government hospitals across Delhi, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP) too, extended support by wearing black ribbons during their working hours.
“We, along with rest of the modern medicine fraternity, oppose the government's move towards 'mixopathy' by the virtue of its gazette notification from the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM), which allows the PG students of Ayurveda to perform general surgeries,” Adarsh Pratap Singh, president, Resident Doctors Association (RDA), AIIMS told IANS.
The doctors of the LNJP also announced to take part in the strike and demanded the government to withdraw the CCIM notification. “We support the indigenous system of medicine. However, we oppose the government's rule which is legalising Ayurveda to practice allopathic procedures,” stated Dr Keshave Singh, president, RDA of LNJP.
“Modern medicine has evolved over the years through evidence-based research, which has ensured both effectiveness and safety. This step will not only encourage already rampant quackery but also undermine the safety of the public. We request the government of India to retract this notification immediately,” Dr Adarsh said.
“The procedures AYUSH practitioners would follow is learnt by us after years of study and practice. If they (AYUSH doctors) get to follow the procedures, it will endanger the life of the patients. Several incidents have already been reported in the media which showed dangerous outcomes of quackery,” Dr Keshave added.
‘Whose Idea Was It?’ UP Doctors Ask
Doctors at several hospitals in Uttar Pradesh wore black bands as a sign of protest called by the IMA.
The Lucknow doctors in private hospitals told IANS that they would opt for a symbolic strike for one-hour in the afternoon on Friday but if the government did not take back its notification, they would consider a 'more serious' form of protest.
“The decision to allow Ayurvedic doctors to perform surgeries after training is dangerous,” said SK Singh, a doctor who owns a private nursing home told IANS.
“This amounts to playing with the lives of patients. Surgeons are qualified and have sufficient experience to perform surgical procedure. A simple training is not enough,” he said.
Two other doctors who practice in private hospitals in Kanpur, said, “It is the same if we are allowed to prescribe Ayurveda drugs with having basic knowledge.”
“I really do not know whose idea this is but it can throw many human lives in a jeopardy. If surgery was this simple, why have MBBS and MS courses for medical students?” said gynaecologist Priya Mathur to IANS.
Private Clinics Shut in Kerala
Barring emergency services, COVID care activities and ICU, all other medical activities took a pause in Kerala.
The call given by the Kerala unit of the IMA saw even private clinics shutting shop for the day. The Kerala unit has also urged its members to not open their private clinics, attached to their residence.
Across the state, medical professionals organised protests while adhering to the COVID protocols.
Emergency, COVID Services Continue in Goa
Speaking to IANS, Indian Medical Association-Goa President Dr S Samuel said that doctors in Goa had been told to withdraw from providing non-essential and non-COVID-related services till later in the evening.
“We have requested our member doctors to withdraw all services other than these two," Samuel said. The day-long strike will conclude at 6 pm.
He said that he was hopeful that the central government will heed to the demands of the IMA. "We have already raised this issue in Goa with Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant," Samuel said.
A senior official in the state Directorate of Health Services said: “No emergency services or treatment of COVID-19 patients has been impacted on account of the strike by IMA-affiliated doctors. We have made special provisions at our public health centres to ensure that the common man is not impacted by the absence of doctors for routine duties.”
Punjab, Haryana Doctors Wear Black Ribbons to Work
Doctors of the state-run hospitals in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh extended support to the protest by wearing black ribbons.
Nearly 1,000 doctors affiliated to the IMA's Gurugram chapter held protests at 25 hospitals across the district to strongly oppose the Centre's order, IANS reported.
Medical services also operated normally in Chandigarh's Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) which caters to patients from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Chandigarh.
Assam Doctors Call it an ‘Experiment on People’
IMA members and doctors in Guwahati staged protests against the Centre’s decision
“They are mixing the modern medical system with the traditional one. It takes 8-10 years to become a surgeon but the Centre is allowing Ayurvedic practitioners to perform it with only three years of training. It is a sort of experiment on people,” IMA Assam State Chief told ANI.
Proud of Ayurveda, But Netas Didn’t Take Ayurvedic COVID Treatments: IMA
Commenting on the strikes, Dr R Sharma, National President of the Indian Medical Association said that modern medicine is controlled and research-oriented.
“Modern medicine is controlled and research-oriented. We are proud of the heritage and richness of Ayurveda but the two shouldn't be mixed,” he told ANI.
According to D Aram, Virdhunagar District Secretary, IMA, the modern medical science is termed as English medicine and at times as Christian medicine by the ruling party.
“Curiously, politicians who are favour of mixopathy do not go for ayurveda treatment when they contract COVID-19. An allopathy doctor has to undergo several years of education and training to specialise in a particular field and then turn into a surgeon. But allowing ayurvedic doctors to do 58 different types of surgeries jeopardises people’s lives,” Aram added.
The IMA is against the lateral entry of paramedics and other systems of Indian medicine graduates to practice allopathy as allowed by the National Education Policy 2020.
Similarly, with the aim of 'one country one system of medicine', the Niti Aayog has formed committees viz medical education, medical practice, public health and medical research to formulate means for the integration of all systems of medicine and blend AYUSH and modern medicine into one system or 'mixopathy', the IMA's Tamil Nadu Chapter said.
“Let each system of medicine excel in their own domain and help the patients recover, instead of crossing the barrier into other systems, getting half-baked training which is equal to producing qualified quacks,” AK Ravikumar, Secretary, IMA-Tamil Nadu, told IANS.
(With inputs from ANI and IANS.)