Return to work, Madras High Court tells striking doctors

If strike continues, it is open to government to act, says HC.

Chennai: The Madras high court expressed the hope that the doctors would call off their strike and return to work. The court cautioned that, despite negotiations and dialogues and court verdict, if doctors still go on strike, despite the importance of their profession to the society, it is open to the government to act and take appropriate action against them in accordance with law.

A division bench comprising Justices N.Kirubakaran and V.Parthiban also ordered notice to the Tamil Nadu Doctors Association and posted to May 6, further hearing of a PIL filed by advocate A.K.Velan, which sought to restrain the members of the Tamil Nadu Doctors Association from striking work.

When the case came up for hearing this morning, highlighting the plight of patients owing to continuing strike by doctors in connection with PG medical admission, the bench had summoned the state health secretary and other top officials of state health services.

Accordingly, all the top officials including state health secretary J. Radhakrishnan were present in the court in the afternoon. Asking them to hold talks with the striking doctors, the bench said, "You explain the circumstances and the fact that the issue is before the court. As a last resort, you take action in accordance with law including invoking the provisions of Essential Services Maintenance Act against them".

When the bench pointed out the media reports that several surgeries had been postponed by striking doctors who had hijacked the medical services, Radhakrishnan said only a section of doctors were on strike. More than 17,000 doctors were working and 1,500 deliveries were attended to. More than 4 lakh outpatients and 15,000 inpatients had been attended to, he added.

In its order, the bench said it was apprised by the Principal secretary to the government that necessary steps were taken by the government to defuse the situation prevailing in view of the strike conducted by the doctors for the past 15 days and despite many negotiations and dialogues with the doctors, no fruitful results were yielding and medical students also have joined with them.

As the matter (award of incentive marks for in-service candidates for admission to PG medical courses) was sub-judice before this court in which the state government was also supporting the striking doctors, this court hopes that the striking doctors would understand the reality and return to work. "It is pertinent to note that there is no moral or equitable justification for the doctors to go on strike and they cannot take the society at ransom by going on strike. If at all they are aggrieved, they can very well resort to the machinery provided under different statutory provisions for redressal of their grievances.

The doctors should bear in mind that their strike will affect the society as a whole and particularly the innocent poor patients who entirely depend upon the public health care system. The services rendered by the doctors are human service and their timely attendance and treatment saves many lives and they should realise the importance of their profession to society and their services cannot be substituted by any other professionals", the bench added.

Few doctors’ association call off strike
Following the government holding talks with the agitating doctors, a few doctors associations like the Tamil Nadu Government Doctors' Association (TNGDA) on Friday evening, agreed to withdraw their strike in connection with the PG medical admission issue.

Assuring its support to the agitating doctors in the matter, the government urged them to withdraw their strike. "Patients in the hospitals should not be affected by the protests and therefore, we wrote to the heads of all Government Hospitals and to the Director of Medical Education and Director of Medical Services urging that the strike be withdrawn to avoid stern action," said Health Minister Dr. C. Vijay Baskar.

Stating that it is is a good move, Dr. G. R. Ravindranath of the Doctors' Association for Social Equality (DASE) said, "Some organisations had announced that they were planning to go on mass leave on Monday, which would have surely affected the patients. Despite being forced to withdraw, the doctors are allowed to continue their struggle after work hours. Earlier, an announcement had been made that only emergency services would be done. Now, it has to be ensured that none of the services are affected.

A Joint Action Committee (JAC) consisting various like-minded Doctors' Associations was formed on Friday. Some private doctors' associations have also been added to it. In future, it will also include other trade unions, teachers' forums, government employees' forums and agricultural unions to form a people's struggle. The JAC will aim at getting the 50 per cent reservation for PG admission, Central Government's assent for the bills passed in the Parliament to exempt Tamil Nadu from the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (Neet), and protect the public health system.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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