MCHs struggle to run OP clinics

Medicos’ stir snowballing into a stand-off between medical fraternity, govt.

As the strike by junior residents or postgraduate medical students in government medical colleges across the State, boycotting all hospital services except COVID-19 duty, crosses day two, more doctors’ organisations are joining the strike and the issue seems to be snowballing into a major stand-off between the entire medical fraternity and the government.

The strike by the PG medicos which began as a nationwide protest against the inordinate and indefinite delay in the NEET-PG allotment for 2021 has not just drawn attention to the acute shortage of human resource in the medical colleges in the State, it has also highlighted the volatile situation in these institutions wherein the quality of patient care may be threatened by an unhappy and overworked workforce.

All medical college hospitals (MCHs) struggled to run the outpatient (OP) clinics, inpatient care, ICUs and emergency departments for the second day in a row on Saturday. Reports from various MCHs said elective surgeries and procedures were badly affected and that all departments were being forced to discharge patients en masse as none of the MCHs have enough staff to work.

Minister’s stance

Health Minister Veena George said here that the government had empathetically looked at the problem of junior residents, the main workforce of all MCHs and who have been under severe work pressure right from the beginning of the pandemic. It was to ease the issue of staff shortage that the government had allowed the appointment of 373 non-academic junior residents for all MCHs.

However, the Kerala Medical Postgraduates’ Association pointed out that it had been months since they had been drawing attention to the issue of acute human resource shortage, their work pressure and the fact that their entire postgraduate training had been jeopardised, with them having spent three-fourths of their course time only on COVID duty, rather than getting trained in their chosen specialities.

They said they chose to strike after being driven to the wall, which finally seemed to get the government’s attention. There is a shortage of over 1,000 postgraduate doctors in all MCHs together and 373 posts are just not going to cut it. A huge tertiary care hospital like the Thiruvananthapuram MCH alone requires over 250 doctors, the KMPGA said.

They would continue the strike till the government gave them a concrete assurance about the promised hike in stipend because apart from paying lip service to the sacrifices of health-care workers, the government did little to ensure their welfare, the doctors said.

More bodies join the issue

Various professional associations – the Kerala Government Postgraduate Medical Teachers’ Association, Kerala Government Medical College Teachers’ Association (KGMCTA), Kerala House Surgeons’ Association and the Senior Resident Doctors’ Association – all joined the issue with the striking junior doctors on Saturday.

House surgeons have decided to boycott all duties except emergency services and COVID duty for 24 hours from 8 a.m. on Monday as a token protest. Senior residents are not officially on strike but in a statement here, they said that rather than resolve the human resource situation, the administrators were now leaning on the senior residents to run entire hospitals.

The KGMCTA Thiruvananthapuram unit in a statement said that in protest against the workload that the faculty was being burdened with and in solidity with the PG doctors, the faculty will boycott OP, IP, elective surgeries and teaching activities at the MCH here for two hours on Monday.

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