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Medico-Govt. standoff needs solutions, not strikes

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 DTMT Network
Protest or strike is a fundamental right recognized in most democratic countries including India. A strike in the healthcare sector causes great problems to the common man. However, due to the insensitivity of political leaders, medical staff is left with no option but to resort to striking work to press for even their legitimate demands.

Every other day doctors, nurses and other medical staff in the country resort to strike, as the authorities concerned do not meet their demands. On several occasions it becomes very difficult for helpless patients, especially children and elderly people, admitted in these strike infested hospitals.

Medical staff demands better pay, improved working conditions, sufficient tools, and opportunities for growth, as also security at work. The physicians, for example, signed a security agreement with the government, which has not been honoured by the authorities.

The situation has worsened with the appointment of health care workers on contract at low wages, denying them the benefits  workers doing the same work enjoyed earlier.

The government has a constitutional and moral duty to fix the problem permanently and come up with a workable offer. The workers must also be reasonable and be prepared to make concessions.

It appears that the governments in India may be capable of creating the physical infrastructure for health care, but ill-equipped to deal with medical workers and policy matters.

The state and central governments have to revamp the health care delivery system that has progressively failed over the years in the country.

The situation becomes worse when top government functionaries, who have a responsibility to raise the standard of healthcare delivery in the country, have no faith in public hospitals. In fact, hospital managements display a lack of good faith in the handling of medical strikes, leading to a deterioration in the worker-management relations.

However, the poor situation of the hospitals should not be an apology for the government to act irresponsibly. Every time there is a negotiated agreement, the government should ensure that such pacts are honoured, to enhance its own integrity.

In this situation, the poor people loses in multiple ways: They bear the burden of tax for no or less-than-satisfactory government services. The offer inducements to government servants to do what they are employed to do. The poor also suffer the ignominy of being ignored or deprived of key services.

As every doctor, nurse, technician, ward boy etc., has an indisputable right to protest against unfair labour terms, being essential service workers, they should resort to strike to protest against unfavorable working conditions only under very extreme and exceptional circumstances.

In other parts of the world like in USA, health care is so important that it can determine who wins a presidential election. It is time Indians started holding the government to account on the quality of health services provided for citizens.

To begin with, the rich and the government officials should hereafter stop the idea of running abroad whenever they have minor diseases. It has become obvious that they will only develop hospitals at home when they know they have no foreign option. It is the government's duty to increase the ratio of doctors to patients in the country for avoiding such a situation.

A good working environment is essential. If medical institutions are well equipped, physicians, who are today fleeing the country at the smallest opportunity, will not only stay back but those abroad will return. In the mean time, the government has to do everything to ensure that strikes are resolved and normal services restored in the hospitals.

It is of paramount importance that the government should urgently address the doctors’ grievances and put a stop to the incessant strikes that take their toll on human lives.

Strikes paralyse medical services in the hospitals. A host of patients, including those in critical condition, are abandoned to their fate. This is totally unacceptable in any decent and civilised society.

It is heart-rending that medical workers in India’s health-care delivery system have been pushed to this desperate situation without consideration for lives.

The nation’s medical care system is in a shambles. When doctors are not on strike, it is nurses or other categories of health workers. On each occasion, it is the unfortunate patients who suffer.

The issues agitating the resident doctors are long outstanding and unless something is done urgently, every such protest action will lead to unnecessary loss of innocent lives.

Not until the Central Government and the various state governments begin to honour agreements reached with labour unions without waiting for a showdown would Indian health care establishments have a congenial working atmosphere.

Doctors threatened a number of strikes last year and actually embarked on some that paralysed hospitals. But those actions, apparently, didn’t achieve their desired results.

No matter how much of physical infrastructure is created in the healthcare sector, if the workers manning the healthcare facilities are genuinely aggrieved, the best results in the interest of the patients are simply not possible to attain. It is of urgent importance that fair working conditions and emoluments for health care workers are ensured in the interest of the health of the patients.

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