Junior doctors threaten strike protesting delay in NEET PG counselling; claim 'inhumane overburdening'

The resident doctors have declared a halt of OPD services, citing apathy from the government and the judiciary
Pic: Edexlive
Pic: Edexlive

Junior doctors across the country are voicing their frustrations over the increased workload that they have been carrying since the start of this year due to the delays in finishing the admissions process for a fresh batch because of the pandemic and a sticky petition.

Irony has a cruel way of playing out. On January 2021, 1.6 lakh MBBS-qualified students were supposed to take the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission into PG Specialist courses. Fast forward a year later, and with the Supreme Court hearing on the petitions against the reservation in the All India Quota for the OBC and EWS hearing scheduled for January 6, 2022, it doesn't seem likely that the admissions process will end any time before March next year.

The Indian Medical Association Junior Doctors Network and the Federation of Resident Doctors' Association India, have both released letters threatening an impending strike, shutting down elective services across the country, if the government doesn't expedite the counseling process. 

Even as opinion stays divided among the students, these organisations and various stakeholders on the issue of quota for the Economically Weaker Sections, it is clear that the strain and the frustration are getting to all THE young doctors. A meeting has been scheduled for 5 pm on November 26 with multiple resident doctors' organisations in India, where a decision will be taken with regards to approaching the Union Health Minister and the Prime Minister of India with requests to intervene and get the admissions process going.  

Their demands are simple. An entire batch of PG doctors, racking up to about 45,000 junior doctors, have been lost to the healthcare system this year. This means that the burden of handling patients has fallen on two batches, and doctors claim that they are under threat of severe burnout. Dr Manish Kumar, President, FORDA said, "A single doctor works 80 hours a week. It is inhumane. At Safdarjung Hospital, a single doctor takes care of 200 patients, and a single round of duty stretches up to 36 hours. It is also affecting the quality of patient care." 

FORDA has already announced that they will be exempting themselves from Outpatient Department services across the country from November 26 to mark their protest. "We will be left with no choice but to opt-out of elective services as well if this continues." 

Dr MK Abdul Hasan, the Tamil Nadu Chairman of the Junior Doctors Network of the Indian Medical Association told Edexlive that the doctors are only looking for a push for the counselling process. "We all know that it is a very sensitive matter. However, they can try to take fewer than a whole month to decide on the upper limit of the EWS income criteria. They should ensure that it is not prolonged any further," he added that although the IMA JDN had so far supported the government's policy on reservation, these measures should not delay the admissions process and disrupt the dreams of the aspirants. 

"If they wish, they can simply pass an ordinance to implement the reservation next year. The IMA condemns the government's insensitive attitude towards the plight of the public healthcare system. It is unfortunate that the government is asking for 4 weeks time to review data in this day and age, where something like that shouldn't take more than a few days. It reflects the mindset that the government doesn't care about students and healthcare," said Dr JA Jayalal, National President, IMA. He says that it will have a disastrous effect on the mind of the youngsters. 

In fact, the JDN says that they have been bringing up the matter of junior doctors being overburdened repeatedly to the authorities every chance they get. "There is an urgent need to reschedule the PG programme, and introduce mental health counselling for junior doctors," Dr Abdul told Edexlive.

In a chat with Edexlive last month, junior doctors in Telangana's Hyderabad had spoken about the burden of overwork forcing them to consider taking extreme steps or leaving the profession altogether. "But we don't do that. We came here with a passion to serve people," a doctor had said.

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