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Maharashtra doctors' strike: Resident docs hopeful after minister promises to heed to their demands

The strike was called off Tuesday after minister Girish Mahajan met resident doctors

PTI01_03_2023_000091B The strike was called off Tuesday after minister Girish Mahajan met resident doctors association

"This is not something we have just begun to demand. The issues we are struggling with have been going on for quite a while now," said Dr Avinash Dahiphale, president of MARD (Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors), in an interview to THE WEEK. 

Senior resident doctors from government-run and BMC-run hospitals across the state of Maharashtra declared a strike two days back in order to get the "authorities to become attentive to the demands" they made. 

As a result of this drastic step, many OPD and non-emergency ward services got hit badly, and long queues of patients were observed at a number of BMC hospitals in Mumbai. At Sion hospital, the paediatric OPD department was crowded when THE WEEK visited last evening, as resident doctors weren't available to share the case load with their seniors. However, the strike was called off after a meeting between Medical Education minister Girish Mahajan and Central MARD members took place on Tuesday late evening. 

"We had a meeting with Medical Education Minister Girish Mahajan, and he assured us the creation of 1,432 senior resident doctor seats across the state of Maharashtra on a priority basis. Funds will be released at the earliest for hostel renovation and new infrastructure for accommodation for resident doctors in medical colleges. After this we decided to resume our services."  

Across a number of government hospitals, the junior doctors did not let the strike affect the patients, as many conducted many more surgeries than expected. Earlier on Monday, resident doctors, who then claimed that theirs was an indefinite strike, had threatened to discontinue emergency services. But they only skipped outpatient departments and elective surgeries. 

The resident doctors, as told to THE WEEK by Dr Pravin Dhage from Sion hospital, weren't sure their demands would be taken up on a priority basis by anyone in authority. "But we are very thankful to Mahajan for listening to us and really promising to bring forth a change," said Dr Dhage.

Yet, the question remains: However serious their concerns are, should doctors strike? Scott Murray from the University of Edinburgh published a research paper titled 'Should Doctors Strike,' after British doctors went on strike for the first time since 1975 in the month of June last year. "Amidst a global economic downturn and with many health systems struggling with reduced finances, around the world the issue of public health workers going on strike is a very real one. Almost all doctors will agree that we should always follow the law, but often the law is unclear or does not cover a particular case. Here we must appeal to ethical discussion," wrote Murray in the paper which was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. 

"It is difficult in any health system to justify strike action. Especially when it was clear to see that it would be detrimental to patients’ wellbeing. As is the case with many doctors’ strikes around the world, these strikes in the UK did not resolve the dispute. There are no victors in physicians’ strikes. Worst of all, the result of this strike was that patients suffered most, writes Murray in his paper. 

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