TN Government Docs Call off Strike After Talks, to Report to Duty 

Tamil Nadu government doctors called off strike on Friday, after meeting with the health minister Vijayabaskar.

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Tamil Nadu government doctors called off a strike on Friday, after a week. Health Minister Vijayabaskar and Secretary Beela Rajesh met with the Federation of Government Doctors Association (FOGDA) and discussed their demands.

The government doctors had called for an indefinite strike on 25 October 2019 demanding pay parity, service quota reservation for PG speciality and super speciality courses and fair counselling for job placements after post graduation.

Tamil Nadu government had issued an ultimatum to the protesting doctors on Thursday that the posts of the doctors who were missing work, will be filled through fresh recruitment/ transfers.

Over 13000 doctors had been on strike but the doctors had assured ‘there was no disruption of health services.’ They were attending to emergencies and life-saving treatment, but not elective surgeries.

Around 2,000 hospitals and 1,800 primary health centres in the state have been affected. The Quint spoke to doctors across the state to understand their demands and the status of their long-standing plea to the government.

What Are The Demands to the TN Govt

“Nobody works beyond even eight hours. We are working for more than 24 hours, there should be no pay band or pay limit at all for doctors. In spite of it, we are asking for a decent pay,” Dr Raji, a paediatrician at Kilpauk Medical College, who has been sitting in the protest outside Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital from Friday said:

Several doctors pointed out that if service quota is not factored in, then we will not have doctors going into the public health system and working for the primary health centre.

The key demands put forth by the government doctors are:

The key demands put forth by the government doctors are:

  • Pay parity with the central government and nearby states
  • Dynamic Assured Career Progression at 12 years, rather than the present 20 years
  • Hire doctors as per the patient-doctor ratio
  • Transparent counselling for posting after post graduation
  • Reservation for service quota in PG speciality courses

“Instead of joining Tamil Nadu Health Centre, had I been a central government employee my salary would now be Rs 95,000. But now my salary is Rs 62,000,” said Dr Gopinath who works at Vanagaram Primary Health Centre.

Several doctors pointed out that if service quota is not factored in, then we will not have doctors going into the public health system and working for the primary health centre.

“When you compare the pay structure with other states, Tamil Nadu doctors are at the 20th place in terms of pay. But in terms of health performance we are in the second place.”
Dr Gopinath, Vanagaram Primary Health Centre
Senior doctors who have been fasting since the first day outside Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital.
Senior doctors who have been fasting since the first day outside Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital.
(Photo: Smitha TK/ The Quint)

A Five-Year Long Fight

In the past government doctors have held one-day hunger strikes, wore black badges, held dharnas and submitted several petitions. But they say there has been no clear redressal of their demands.

On 23 August, five doctors sat on a fast unto death to force the government to listen. Soon, this snowballed into a state-wide strike, pushing the government to form a committee to review the demand. They had requested six weeks time to take action, and sought a few more days due to the bye-elections.

“The government doctors of Tamil Nadu have been making these demands for nearly five years. In between, there was a Public Internet Litigation, because we threatened to go on a one-day strike. At the end of the Public Interest Litigation, the court gave a direction to the government that since there is a committee report present, a government order present, the government should take a final decision on it. This was in January 2019 and no decision has been taken till date,” said Dr Lakshmi Narasimhan, Convenor of the Federation of Associations of Government Doctors.

Women doctors sitting in protest outside Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital.
Women doctors sitting in protest outside Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital.
(Photo: Smitha TK/ The Quint)

They claimed that their protest is not leading to disruption of services. Many of them completed their shifts and then join in the protest during the day.

“We are all protesting in a very ahimsa (non-violent) way. That itself shows how we care for our patients,” Dr Kavitha from Chennai said.

‘As Long as the Cause Stands, Fight Stands’

State Health Minister Vijayabaskar had held talks with the Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association and they withdrew the protest on 28 October.“We have been told that in two weeks he (health minister) will discuss with finance and other sectors and give us a good solution,” said Dr Ravishankar, Convener of Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association.

Doctors from Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital raise slogans demanding pay parity.
Doctors from Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital raise slogans demanding pay parity.
(Photo: Smitha TK/ The Quint)

However, Federation of Government Doctors Association, with the backing of over 13,000 doctors continued the strike until Friday, when the minister held talks.

The Director of Medical Education had also directed all institutions to ensure there is no unauthorised protest.

“As long as the cause stands, the fight stands. We are people who worked during Vardah (cyclone). We are people who worked in the massive Chennai floods. Water, rain and all is nothing to us. It is the willpower,” said Dr Jessima from Chennai.

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