Delhi government on Tuesday invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act to force an end to the strike by government doctors that continued to cripple health services in the national capital for the second day.
“Emergency services have been affected due to the strike and so the government has imposed ESMA. Never before have emergency services been affected due to a strike and I saw it myself during inspections at several hospitals. Patients in the hospitals cannot be left to die,” said Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain.
The minister said the government “accepted 19 demands” put forth by the striking doctors during parleys between the two sides.
“During the meeting, they made five more demands which, too, were accepted and (we) also circulated the minutes of the meeting,” added Jain.
Talking about the doctors' demands, he said that a major concern was over security and he had met the Delhi Lt Governor seeking police cover at government hospitals.
“Security was a major concern... so I met the Lt Governor seeking security arrangements at government hospitals. The Lt Governor has ordered Delhi police to provide adequate security at the hospitals,” Jain said.
He added that he will review the situation in this regard after three months along with the doctors.
“Certain demands -- like increasing hospital beds -- cannot happen in three months. We are working on increasing beds in hospitals and also constructing new ones, which will take some time,” Jain said, adding that he has already asked the health department to strengthen emergency services.
“Most of the medicines are available and 100 per cent medicines will be available by August 15,” he said.
The health department had on Monday accepted 19 demands of the striking resident doctors and ordered them to resume their work by 11 am on Tuesday.
However, the doctors continued with the strike demanding concrete measures as they claimed that the “government has in the past given similar assurances but failed to deliver”
Government doctors launched an indefinite strike on Monday demanding adequate stocks of life-saving drugs, security at the workplace and timely payment of salaries, etc.
With the doctors staying away from duty, citizens visiting government hospitals had a harrowing time as the out patient department and ward services were affected by the strike.
However, a doctor at Safdarjung Hospital claimed that "emergency services were not interrupted and managed by senior doctors".
Meanwhile, a member of the Delhi-based Federation of Resident Doctors' Association hinted at the possibility of over 500 resident doctors from AIIMS joining the ongoing strike.
The strike has affected services at over 20 hospitals run by the central and Delhi governments and municipal corporations, including Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Safdarjung Hospital, Lady Hardinge Medical College and Maulana Azad Medical College.
Image: Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain. Photograph: ANI