Why doctors cannot tolerate a few slaps, contusions and lacerations in their line of duty? Their’s being a sworn duty to serve the public (even though it may seem ungrateful most of the times) they have no right or business to strike work. Silently and stoically going about saving lives is what they should do even if some of them receive head injuries and the like as recently happened.
Doctors contracting tuberculosis in their line of duty is frequent and not news anymore, but doctors also have been known to get diseases like Hepatitis B, HCV, HIV from patients because of lack of protective gear and safe work environment. Even the pathetic pittance given as “Salary” is not their right and it is not for them to demand after 3-6 months of non-payment.
Being at the forefront of a pathetic healthcare system doctors bear the brunt of the blame for poor healthcare delivery even though actual fault lies with poor allocation for health in our budgets. The same newspapers that scream in headlines about “inhuman” doctors gloss over the fact conveniently when successive Governments refuse to increase healthcare budget from a meagre 1.3 percent. They, of course, have their compulsions being dependent on government for much of their advertisement revenue.
The basic question which needs asking is that when health budget of a minimum Rs 1.5 lakh crore is required to fulfil basic healthcare needs of Indians and Rs 1.2 lakh crore out of this is slashed “Is it not going to cost lives”? Blaming the doctors for loss of these lives because they are at the forefront trying to save them is suicidal for the society. Then criticizing them when they protest and threatening them is like putting salt over wounds. Those who are bright, have intellectual and financial resources leave the country having faced such ludicrous apathy. They usually are also the ones who could contribute maximum to the society and their fleeing the country is our loss.
Coming back, however, to the strike, it is unfortunate that the same political parties who will vie to be seen siding with striking employees and posing for photographs with their leaders during dharnas are all united when it comes to strike by doctors. No political support of any form is ever forthcoming and even though it will be used as a political chess game for electoral gains.
Are demands of the striking doctors wrong? Security will help doctors working in hospitals as well as patients receiving treatment from hooligans and essential medicines are for use for patients and not for doctors. What is, however, wrong is that a proper notice in all national newspapers stating the intention and reasons clearly should have been published before the strike. These advertisements given so often by bank unions etc, however, cost a pretty penny. Doctors are not organized, do not have common resources and are not in a position from their depleted savings to do all this.
The strike will in all likelihood fail with some NGO like PBT again filing petition against doctors’ strike in courts or MCI or DMC taking suo moto notice of the “inhuman act” and take action against doctors. Sometimes, however, I wonder would it not be better to be de registered by the medical council, at least then we will start thinking of alternate professions/businesses and make some real money. Already the zeal with which I joined medical profession, the desire to “serve” has long flickered and died. It is now a matter of surviving each day without any “incidence” while earning your daily bread (butter is long gone).
Dr Neeraj Nagpal
Convenor, Medicos Legal Action Group
Ex-President, IMA Chandigarh