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Doctors' strike brings Delhi Govt hospitals to standstill

Nearly 40,000 resident doctors associated with major government hospitals, except AII India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, went on strike on Thursday, crippling medical care in all government hospitals across the national Capital. Most scheduled surgeries at major government hospitals were also cancelled, with Lok Nayak Hospital alone cancelling nearly 40 surgeries scheduled for the day.

The crisis is expected to continue on Friday as the Delhi Medical Association (DMA), which has 40,000 members, has announced another strike on March 24 to protest against a fresh assault on a doctor. All the office bearers of DMA will skip work and OPD services at private hospital and clinics too in Delhi would remain closed during the day. As many as 19 presidents of different state medical associations have supported this move.

The DMA members said that except emergency and wards, the other services including diagnostics will remain closed across Delhi. There are around 15,000 doctors associated with DMA working in government and private hospitals in Delhi. The members said that around 40,000 doctors registered in Delhi would join the strike.

Consequently, OPD services will be closed from 9 am. "This is not just a strike but a movement against violence against doctors. The basic cause of strike is unprovoked assault against the doctors. In future, if a doctor is assaulted, the culprits must be booked. We want government to sensitize the public towards doctors.

We want police protection," said DMA President Dr Rakesh Kr Gupta.
However, "Our hospital expresses solidarity with the concerns of the Indian Medical Association and Delhi Medical Association regarding the safety of doctors. General and private Out Patient Departments (OPD) of our hospital will not function on 24 March. Moreover, the in-patient as well as emergency services will function normally," said Sir Ganga Ram Hospital Board of Management Chairman Dr D S Rana.

Doctors at AIIMS, however, have decided to continue their duties wearing driving helmets as part of the #SavetheSaviours campaign. "AIIMS is a tertiary care hospital where poor patients come from across the country with prior appointments, so we will not stop our work. We condemn the Maharashtra government's move of suspending the doctors and we stand by FORDA," said Dr Vijay Gurjar, president of the resident doctors' association at AIIMS.

Delhi has been witnessing a steep rise in cases of assault on doctors. In the last 18 months, more than 40 cases have been reported, and in 20 instances, the doctors have gone on strike demanding safety and security in hospitals. "We will support the DMA strike but will not halt the services at the hospitals. We will diagnose the patients in the government hospitals while wearing the black bandage" said Dr Pankaj Solanki, president of the national body Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA). Doctors in different government hospitals in Delhi went on strike at least eight times last year because of such violence.
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