Agitating junior doctors in West Bengal softened their stand on Sunday and asserted that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was free to decide the venue of the meeting with them, but stressed that it should be held in open.
Banerjee had on Saturday invited the agitators for closed-door talks, but the offer was turned down by them.
Talking to the media after a two-and-half-hour-long meeting of their governing body, a spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors said, "We are keen to end this impasse.
"We are ready to hold talks with the chief minister at a venue of her choice, provided it is held in the open, in the presence of media persons, and not behind closed doors."
The spokesperson said the venue should be spacious enough to accommodate representatives from all medical colleges and hospitals in the state.
Earlier, the agitators had insisted that Banerjee visit the NRS Medical College and Hospital, the epicentre of the agitation.
"We want to join our duties as early as possible in the best interests of the common people once all our demands are met with adequately and logically through a discussion.
"We are hopeful that the chief minister will be considerate enough to solve the problems," he said, adding that the strike would continue till a solution was worked out.
Junior doctors across the state are observing a strike in protest against an assault on two of their colleagues at the NRS, allegedly by the family members of a patient who died on Monday night.
Services continued to remain affected for the sixth day on Sunday in the emergency wards, outdoor facilities and pathological units of many state-run hospitals and private medical facilities in the state, leaving several patients in the lurch.
Patients have been facing the heat of junior doctors' protest.
At SSKM hospital in Kolkata, Raiganj-resident Samuel Haque, who was admitted with a cardiac problem, said he was uncertain about his treatment.
His brother said, "We came to Kolkata last Sunday when everything was normal and the outpatient department was functioning. We admitted him on an emergency basis, with doctors giving date on Tuesday for check-up, following which the date of surgery was to be decided."
But now no doctor is attending to Haque, he said.
Senior doctors say they don't have enough hands to conduct tests, he said.
"His condition is deteriorating. We cannot take him home because it is very difficult for my brother to travel long distance in trains. We will wait till Monday."
Joydeb Roy, a resident of Barishat in North 24 Parganas district, was admitted to R G Kar hospital in Kolkata with an injured leg.
A relative said he was referred to a government hospital, where he had to undergo surgery to place a metallic plate in his leg on an emergency-basis. He is waiting for the surgery.
"The senior doctors are saying they need help of junior doctors to conduct the surgery. My husband is lying in the department (ward) waiting for treatment," Roy's wife said.
Mokhtar Hussain's family members are planning to return home in Basirhat. They have been waiting for two days at the Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital for treatment to resume for Hussain, a cancer patient.
"I am suffering from high fever for seven days. I cannot bear the pain. But there is no doctor to carry out check-up. The OPD has been shut for two days and I cannot go anywhere else as things are the same there as well. I don't know what to do. I cannot spend this much money to stay here in Kolkata. I will go back home," he said.
Family members of the four-year-old Romita Dhar, a thalassaemia patient, too face a similar dilemma.
When Dhar's family took her to Chittaranjan National Medical College and Hospital for check-up on Friday, they were told to come on Saturday.
"It is very difficult to travel with a child who is suffering from thalassaemia. I'll again come next week," her mother Arundhaty Roy said.
The patients admitted in government hospitals are also facing problems with pathological units not functioning as usual.
"We don't have much money to afford treatment at private hospitals. I appeal to the chief minister to find a solution to this problem.
"Why cannot our chief minister come for a meeting with the doctors... They (junior doctors) have been saying they will end the stir if she comes to the NRS hospital for a meeting," mother of Bastab Dasgupta, who suffers from neurological problem and is admitted at NRS Medical College and Hospital, said.