Hundreds of resident doctors from across the government hospitals protested outside the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) at Delhi's Nirman Bhawan on Monday, 20 December, as the strike against the delay in the NEET-PG (The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test-Postgraduate) counselling entered the fourth day.
Distressed patients and their kin have been bearing the brunt of this since 17 December as emergency and Outpatient Department (OPD) services at Safdarjung, Ram Manohar Lohia, and Guru Teg Bahadur, among other hospitals, continued to be impacted due to the strike. The protest is being spearheaded by the Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA).
Chants of "we want justice" reverberated outside the ministry, and doctors held posters that read: "We want PG counselling. We are human not robot," "No service without justice," and "Residents not robots."
The FORDA and protesting doctors claim that the delay in the induction process has led to an acute shortage of trained personnel in the country's medical colleges, increasing the burden on the resident doctors presently in service.
'Huge Injustice': AIIMS Resident Doctors on NEET PG Counselling Delay
In a note issued by the Resident Doctors Association of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Monday, it appealed to the health ministry to hasten the counselling process in the interest of the nation.
"It is unfortunate that no solid step has been taken by the government till date, and the protest has got escalated across the nation to the extent of resident doctors being forced to boycott routine and emergency services."Resident Doctors Association, AIIMS
"It is a huge injustice to leave Indian citizens facing the third wave, while 42,000 positions of resident doctors remain vacant due to delay in NEET PG 2021 counselling," the association stated.
Resident doctors at AIIMS have been protesting against the delay by working with black ribbons, the association further noted.
Later in the evening, Resident Doctors held a candle light march in front of AIIMS, against the delay in NEET counselling.
Why Are Doctors Protesting?
The NEET exams, required for the admission of applicants to medical courses, had been postponed from May 2021 to September 2021 due to the second wave of COVID-19, leading to a delay in the admission process of a fresh batch of doctors.
Further, 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 percent reservation to students from Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), setting the income limit to Rs 8 lakh per annum for such candidates.
The Supreme Court had expressed doubt over the limit set by the Centre. On 25 November, the central government had said it would form a committee to submit a report on the matter to the apex court.
The doctors, however, wanted 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 overburdening the current resident doctors.
On 6 December, the FORDA had written a letter to Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, in which it had indicated that the 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.
After having received a verbal assurance from the health minister, the doctors had put their strike on hold.
Days later, on 15 December, the FORDA 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.
The FORDA said that they were taking the step as the government had failed to expedite the NEET-PG 2021 counselling and admission process.
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)