Major government hospitals in Kerala on Friday witnessed long queues of people, who had lined up without knowing about the one-day strike held by the doctors aligned to the Indian Medical Association (IMA). While the outpatient wings of the government hospitals across the state remain closed, barring critical care, the outpatient department in many major private hospitals functioned without hassle.
The one-day strike was held protesting the Union government’s recent decision allowing Ayurveda doctors to perform surgeries. As per the new amendment to Indian Medicine Central Council (Post Graduate Ayurveda Education) Regulations, 2016, post graduate students of Ayurveda can perform a variety of general surgery, including orthopaedic, ophthalmology, ENT and dental. Protesting this, the IMA on Friday held a nationwide strike.
While the majority of the patients who came to government hospitals in the state had to return, many waited in long queues to meet doctors in critical care. "There are only junior doctors, senior doctors are not there. Only when we came to the hospital did we know about the strike. Even if we wait to see (junior) doctors, there is a long queue here, so we are leaving," a patient who came to Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital told Manorama News.
Meanwhile, officials of the IMA stated that the news about the strike was widely published beforehand and that there have been no interruptions for critical care.
Watch video of patients reacting to the strike:
“Patients coming to hospitals in a serious condition will not have any problem. Skeletal treatment services and critical care are functioning,” said Dr S Binoy, part of the Kerala Government Medical College Teachers' Association. According to IMA officials, there has been no deterrent to COVID-19 treatment in the state as well.
Meanwhile, though the IMA claimed that private hospitals in the state were also in solidarity with the protest, many major hospitals in cities had even fully functioning outpatient wings. While Medical Trust, Aster Medcity and Rajagiri Hospital in Kochi had fully functional outpatient departments, Aster MIMS in Kozhikode city had only emergency services.
The doctors under the banner of the IMA, held a protest dharna in the state capital in front of the Kerala Secretariat on Friday morning. Talking to TNM, IMA President Dr PT Zacharias said that the strike was being held for the good of the general public.
“The Union government has granted permission for Ayurveda doctors, without the required prerequisites to perform surgeries. They have no expertise in anesthesia or about pharmacology (study of drug or medication action) to be done following the surgery. A massive plan is being mooted to deploy such Ayurveda doctors in the numerous AYUSH centres. This will only affect the poor people who depend on government institutions,” said Dr Zacharias.
He also added that while the state government in Kerala recognises the concerns raised by the Indian Medical Association, the Union government’s adamant actions will crush the advances in the health sector brought about by modern medicine.
IMA officials also stated that the one-day protest is only a sample protest and that the medical community will come forward with more powerful protests.