Around 5,000 resident doctors across government hospitals in Delhi resumed their strike against the delay in NEET-PG (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test Postgraduate) counselling and admission process, on Friday, 17 December.
Due to this, emergency and OPD services at Safdarjung, Ram Manohar Lohia, Guru Teg Bahadur, and Lok Nayak hospitals in the national capital were impacted.
Distressed kin of patients from near and far stood outside the Delhi government's LNJP Hospital Friday morning and told The Quint that they were turned away due to the strike. A security personnel at the hospital confirmed the same.
Why Are Doctors Protesting?
The NEET exams were scheduled for May but were postponed to September due to the second wave of Covid-19.
There has been a delay in the counselling and admission of the new batch of doctors due to the Centre's decision in July 2021 to give 10% reservation to the students from Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), setting the income limit to Rs 8 lakh per annum for such candidates. The Supreme Court, however, had expressed doubt over the limit set by the Centre.
On November 25, the central government had said it would form a committee to submit a report to the apex court. The doctors, however, want the process to be expedited as the non-admission of a fresh batch of resident doctors is leading to a shortage of healthcare workers across the country and the overburdening and exhaustion of the current resident doctors.
In fact, on Monday, 6 December, the Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA) had written a letter to Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, where it had indicated that healthcare institutions across the country were struggling due to a lack of adequate workforce of resident doctors, with no admissions being granted for the current academic year.
"We had multiple meetings at the health ministry, and we were given assurance that concrete steps would be taken regarding the issue. We are also being told that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is concerned about the issue. Keeping these issues in mind and understanding the importance of patients' care, we have put our protest on hold. If we don't get a positive response soon, we will be forced to go on a nationwide protest," Dr Anuj Agarwal, Resident Doctor, Safdarjung Hospital, had told The Quint on Saturday, 11 December.
When Have They Been Protesting Since ?
The resident doctors from across the country have been protesting since 27 November 2021.
On December 6, resident doctors of Delhi's Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Safdarjung Hospital, and Lady Hardinge Hospital had observed a boycott of OPD and emergency services. Resident doctors from Delhi's Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Safdarjung Hospital, and Lady Hardinge Hospital had joined the nationwide protest called by FORDA, which is one of the two national associations coordinating the nationwide protest.
A FORDA delegation had also met Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday, 6 December, to put forth their demands.
Why Have They Resumed Their Strike?
FORDA, on Wednesday, 15 December, had written to Mandaviya to inform him of its decision to "withdraw from all services, including emergency," by resident doctors in government hospitals from 17 December.
FORDA said that they were taking the step as the government had failed to expedite the NEET-PG 2021 counselling and admission process.
"With the threat of a third wave of COVID-19 pandemic looming large, the best the authorities could have done was to expedite the counselling and subsequent admission process. Instead, there is inaction and a lack of urgency in the matter. Hence, as informed earlier, resident doctors are left with no choice but to go for withdrawal from all services in healthcare institutions from December 17 onwards," FORDA said.
What Had Happened Earlier?
Resident doctors had suspended the nationwide protest on 9 December for a week after the health ministry issued a plea to fast-track the court hearing in the matter. This was also done due to the death of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and 13 army personnel in the chopper crash in Tamil Nadu's Coonoor on 8 December.
"A plea was issued by the MoHFW (Union ministry of Health and Family Welfare) to fast-track the court hearing, and we were assured by the health minister that the office of the Prime Minister is also looking after the issue, and the process will be completed within a week," a release from FORDA had said.