Shivanshu K. Srivastava The frequency of cases of strikes by doctors in various parts of the country is an issue of grave concern. The strikes mostly occur as an outcome of certain demands like salary hike and incidents of conflicts between the doctors and the patients’ attendants. The last month witnessed a countrywide protest, with an epicentre in the state capital of Kolkata over an agitated attack on some junior doctors. In another instance, two of the most popular hospitals in the state capital of Lucknow – KGMU and SGPGIMS – have seen a series of cases, which is nothing new, where the doctors shirked their duties protesting for some of their demands. Strikes are used as a conspicuous tool to demand social and political justice. However, the unregulated permit to doctors for going on strike is as perilous as a driverless automobile moving in a crowded area. Doctors are indeed all-important when it comes to saving a diseased or an injured person. However, certain professions like the one in question are too serious ones that would certainly lead to a situation of gross disorder if allowed to omit their duties and instead go on strikes whenever they feel like. It’s terrible to think about what would happen if even for a single day the police association or the army decides to go on strike. It is, therefore, not just arbitrary but also an act equivalent to a serious offence for such professions. There is an utter need to enquire into such mishaps to understand the situation in detail to address these unwarranted strikes. The medical field is not an ordinary profession and most assuredly not a business. A patient places his trust and confidence in doctors and his expectations are legitimate that the doctors would, without delay, undertake his treatment. Doctors, particularly in Indian society, have always been held in high esteem by the general public. From centuries, they have been revered as second only to God as only they have the knowledge and competence to revive serious patients. In Munshi Premchand’s ‘Mantra’ – a story wherein a man’s child died as a result of an apathetic doctor who refused to attend his ailing son and went to play golf instead – the moral turpitude of one doctor was well reflected upon. The assertion by the doctors is acceptable that the patients need to understand the workload that the medical practitioners face. However, there is a much greater need for the doctors to understand and feel the intense pain – physical and emotional – continually experienced by the patients and their attendants. Their torment and sentiments can never be neglected. When my deceased mother was suffering from heart disease, we faced the insolence of some nurses and doctors. During her days in hospitals, I observed that many patients endure the rude behaviour of medical staff in government hospitals and the undisclosed yet apparent exploitation of patients by private hospitals. The same is silently suffered by countless persons day in, day out. People fear that if they proceed to complain against the misbehaviour, the doctors may not treat them properly. A few months back, doctors of SGPGIMS, Lucknow, threatened to strike demanding a hike in salary at par with the doctors of AIIMS, Delhi. It reflects the sad reality that the pious profession of saving lives is being converted into a trade. The salaries of doctors are well known to be a hefty amount. Even then, human greed sometimes forgets all bounds. Affording quality medical treatment is becoming a far-fetched idea in both government and private hospitals. Patients often fear to go to government hospitals due to the tardiness of doctors and the frequent incidents of strikes. As regards private hospitals, the medical expenses are too exorbitant to be within the reach of common citizens. For a single day in an ICU, a lot of private hospitals charge thousands of rupees which is completely unreasonable. But this is something so indispensable that a person doesn’t think twice before spending all his life’s savings and even selling off his property or taking loans to “pay” for treatment. A person once born, in all probability, gets ill at some point of his or her life. Hence, this profession guarantees high and regular income. As long as there are humans on earth, there is a surety of income for the medical practitioners. This is the reason why there is such a long queue for medical admissions despite tens of lakhs of fees. The fee is rather considered as an investment. To make matters worse, the treatment is often protracted cunningly to increase the total charges. Therefore, there is an utmost urgency to control the unbridled medical charges imposed upon helpless patients by private hospitals. Once the exorbitant charges are curtailed by law, the excessive medical fee will resultantly come down as the number of people mistaking this profession as a business and the medical education as an investment would appreciably decrease. Right to health care is a fundamental right and the same must be secured by proper implementation of laws and ensuring the obedience of medical ethics.
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