As the Kerala government doctors strike enters the fourth day, the Cabinet decided not to hold talks with the medical fraternity. It also decided not to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to deal with the medical professionals. However, the Health Minister, KK Shailaja, reportedly was asked to handle the stir using legal means.
When there is a disruption of certain essential services like public transport (bus services) or health services (hospitals) due to strikes, the government can invoke ESMA. Once ESMA is invoked, the strike becomes illegal and legal action can be taken against the striking employees.
In the Cabinet meet, it was also decided that the government would take the help from unions and organizations backed by the Left to campaign against the striking doctors.
Previously on April 13, a circular was issued by Health Department Additional Chief Secretary Rajeev Sadananadan. As reported in Mathrubhumi, the circular declared that the strike will be considered illegal. The circular also noted that the salaries of doctors will be deducted on the days they were on strike.
The Kerala State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) ordered the government to settle the issue amicably. “The Chief Secretary, as well as the Health Secretary, should make effective intervention to settle the strike. To deny treatment to patients amounts to blatant violation of human rights. Though the doctors have the right to protest, it shouldn’t be at the expense of the patients’ health and life,” an order of KSHRC acting chairman P Mohanadas stated.
The strike was launched by the Kerala Government Medical Officers Association (KGMOA) on April 13, triggered by the suspension of a doctor at the Kumaramputhoor Family Health Centre (FHC) in Palakkad.
Since the strike started, OP hours and private practices have been suspended. No new admissions are accepted. Emergency operations, however, are carried out. The casualty is functioning and will treat the in-patients only till April 18.