West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday agreed to nearly all the demands presented by the protesting doctors following a one-and-half hour long meeting with the representatives of different medical colleges of the state at Nabanna (secretariat).
Following the meeting, junior doctors called off their week-long strike. The announcement of end of the strike was made at NRS Medical College and Hospital – the Ground Zero of the strike.
Protesting doctors reportedly expressed satisfaction following the interaction with the CM, who listened to the grievances of the young medicos and instructed senior officials of the state to act immediately on them.
“We are very satisfied. It shows positive hope. We are now hoping that all that has been assured is implemented,” joyous doctors told a news channel at the NRS.
The meeting, which was called by the CM earlier on Monday at Nabanna, was held in a bid to end the impasse between the state government and agitating doctors that has affected healthcare in Bengal since Tuesday. Banerjee agreed to meet two representatives from 14 medical colleges at the secretariat.
The representatives, all young doctors, apprised the CM of their problems, including lack of proper facilities to treat the patients who come from across the state.
“We came here for discussion because we want a solution. We believe that you have good intentions. If possible, please take appropriate action against the unwanted incidents like the ones that have taken place,” the doctors said during the meeting, dubbing the Chief Minister their “guardian”.
They said that they fear for their safety and also demanded punishment for those who assaulted doctors at NRS Medical College and Hospital. The CM assured that strong action will be taken against whosoever assaults the doctors.
The doctors requested the state government to open a grievance cell in every government hospital to which the CM agreed.
“The government hospitals should set up grievance cells which are easily visible. Grievance cells should be marked out in English, Bengali and Hindi languages so that everyone can identify them. They should also be well-lit so that people can access at night,” she said.
Banerjee also told Kolkata Police Commissioner Anuj Sharma to appoint nodal police officer in every hospital. She also told the representatives that her government is planning to set up alarms in hospitals which can be used in cases where doctors are threatened with violence.
Agreeing to a suggestion by the doctors, Banerjee told the police to set up a unique toll-free mobile number and e-mail address where the medicos can lodge their complaints and grievances.
When requested to meet the injured doctor who was assaulted by the relatives of a patient, Banerjee said that she wants to go but the strike by the junior doctors is preventing it.
“We do not want confrontation. We want work done and that people get treatment,” Banerjee said.
“I wish that the injured doctor recovers completely. We have been monitoring his health ever since that incident,” Banerjee added.
At the end of the meeting, Banerjee requested junior doctors to end their stir. The doctors told the CM that they will announce their decision only after returning to NRS and consulting with other protesting doctors.
Banerjee also instructed senior officials present at the meeting, including Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary and Director General of Police, to implement her instructions.
West Bengal health secretary, MoS Chandrima Bhattacharya and other state officials were present in the meeting.
Though Banerjee gave consent for live coverage of the proposed meeting with the agitating doctors, only two regional news channels were allowed to cover meeting at the state secretariat.
Junior doctors across the state were protesting against an assault on two of their colleagues at the NRS Medical College and Hospital, allegedly by the family members of a patient who died on Monday night.
The protest grew into a nationwide movement with doctors in Delhi, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and other states boycotted work to support their striking colleagues in West Bengal. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) called for a strike on 17 June with the withdrawal of non-essential health services.