Govt medical colleges in Gujarat curtail protesting docs’ access to hostels

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in an address to media persons on the sidelines of an event in Surat reiterated that the demands of the bonded doctors are "not valid".

A day after Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel warned striking doctors of initiating “strict proceedings” against them if they continue with their strike, deans of government medical colleges at Jamnagar and Vadodara initiated actions against the striking doctors by curtailing their access to their hostels. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in an address to media persons on the sidelines of an event in Surat reiterated that the demands of the bonded doctors are “not valid”.

Rupani said, “Yesterday the deputy CM made it clear that there is no Covid-19, no cases in hospitals, no doctors are on (Covid-19) duty, in such a situation the demand that bond be not executed is not valid.”

Nearly 2,000 resident doctors from six government medical colleges of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar are on strike since August 4 with their primary demand being that the mandatory medical bond duty be considered in the ratio of 1:2, that is one day of service be counted equivalent to service of two days, as was implemented by the state government during Covid-19 but was revoked on July 31. Interns and junior resident doctors too have now joined in the protest.

However, at BJ Medical College, affiliated to Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, the Gujarat Medical Teachers Association headquartered at BJMC, extended their support to the striking doctors. Addressed to the Junior Doctors Association of BJ Medical College, the communication notes, “We are of the strong opinion that your demands are very correct and justified… The junior doctors have gone on front foot to serve the Covid patients beyond the service lines disregarding looming terminal danger of death of self during the service, the junior doctors have exhibited exemplary valour of “service before self” this valour is unparalleled and cannot be questioned… For the cause of self-respect, we extend our full hearted support to your just and justified movement.”

With as many as 600 junior doctors and interns going on a complete strike at the SSG hospital in Vadodara, on Friday, the management of the Baroda Medical College issued a notice to the striking doctors to vacate their rooms with immediate effect.

In Jamnagar, the MP Shah Government Medical College on Friday served notices to striking doctors to enter into negotiation with the government or vacate their hostel rooms even as doctors said that electricity supply to their rooms was cut.

The office of the dean of MP Shah Medical College, Dr Nandini Desai pasted notices on doors of hostel rooms of 80 bonded doctors presently serving in Guru Gobind Singh General Hospital on Friday afternoon, asking them to end their strike or vacate the hostel.

“As per the telephonic instructions received from the head office, post graduate residents (PG) and interns as well as Group-A bonded doctors of this college who are on strike are hereby asked to vacate PG hostel and intern hostel,” the notice issued by the office of the dean read.

“They have been asked to keep their strike on hold or they will have to vacate the hostel. It’s just the preliminary instruction given to them. Negotiations are going on at all levels and we are trying to convince them and we are counselling them and we are approaching higher authorities also,” Dr Desai told The Indian Express, adding, the notice will be cancelled if negotiation starts between the striking doctors and the government.

The junior resident doctors have been on strike, except for attending to emergency duties, to push the authorities to give in to their long-pending demands. However, on Friday, the doctors also decided to stop attending to emergencies as the stalemate did not end. The resident doctors have been demanding implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission and also the promise made by the government of considering one day of Covid-19 duty equivalent to two days of regular duty during their bond period. The doctors have also sought regular appointments at the hospital after the bond period, instead of being given rural postings. The residents have claimed that the government has not considered any of their demands and also retracted from its promise to consider their Covid-19 duties as two days of regular duty.

On Friday, Dr Tanuja Javdekar, Dean, Baroda Medical College issued notices to 450 junior residents and 150 interns to vacate the hostel rooms with immediate effect. The notice was pasted at the hostel premises and the management said that it has decided to initiate strict disciplinary action against the doctors for turning their back on emergency duties as well.

Javdekar said, “We have issued a notice to the junior resident doctors and interns, who are on strike, to vacate their hostel rooms with immediate effect, as part of the disciplinary action. We have transferred the paramedical and other clinical staff for duties at SSG hospital as the strike has affected the work at the hospital. Regarding their rural postings, they have not yet been assigned and we could always discuss the issue with those who have already served in a rural posting. The decision to ask them to vacate hostel rooms has been conveyed by the superiors of the health department in Gandhinagar and they will have to vacate their rooms.”

As per the existing rules, a doctor has to furnish Rs 10 lakh worth of bond and an undertaking at the time of enrolling for a masters course that he or she would serve in government hospitals in rural areas for three years after obtaining the masters degree. Those not wanting to serve in government hospitals for three years were required to pay Rs 10 lakh to the government.

However, due to the ongoing pandemic, the state government on April 12 this year, offered these doctors to reduce their bond period to one year while increasing the bond value to Rs 40 lakh.

However, on July 31, the government altered the conditions of the bond of the doctors serving in Jamnagar, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Surat medical colleges by removing the provision of treating Covid-19 duty as double duty and also posted doctors in peripheral hospitals instead of major hospitals in district headquarters.

“We made a representation to health commissioner Dr Jayprakash Shivhare three days ago, saying we were not being treated fairly as we had agreed to sing higher-value bond on the government’s suggestion just a few months ago as we were promised that one day of Covid-19 duty would be considered two days of bond period. But now the government has reneged on its assurance even as we have not come out of the pandemic.”

“The fact that the government is threatening us to initiate action against us under the Epidemic Disease Act is proof that we are still grappling with the pandemic. If we do not want to serve the bond period, doctors of Jamnagar, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Surat will require to pay Rs 40 lakh,” a bonded resident doctor of Jamnagar told The Indian Express, adding the bond amount for doctors in Ahmedabad and Vaododara continue to be Rs 10 lakh only.

The dean said that the striking doctors have been given two options. “The government has invited them for negotiation and the process is ongoing. They have been given two options – either they keep their strike on hold till they approach the government or they withdraw their strike and the government would think about their demands,” the dean further said.

A doctor on strike said, “The college administration is under pressure as we are learning that a minister is visiting GG Hospital tomorrow. That’s the reason, they have cut power supply to rooms of some of the striking doctors.”

The doctor added that the striking doctors are not against serving in peripheral hospitals. “But the 1:2 time calculation has to be here,” said the doctor.

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