16-18 hour working days, 24/7 on call, sub-standard accommodation, sub-standard mess facilities and a stipend that is equivalent to a peon’s salary. This, my dear friends is what you earn after 5 1/2 years of grueling study schedules.
So, then why do it? Why subject yourself to such torture? The answer is very simple. We select our profession at the tender age of 18 post junior college. For people whose parents are in the same field, it’s but a natural progression, for those who aren’t associated with ‘medico’ families, it’s the interest in the human body that makes them take up the field. Most people don’t know how difficult it gets. Most people don’t know about the exhausting hours and the infinite work that has to be put in to be a good doctor.
The demands from this current strike are simple:
- – increase the money paid to the residents (stipend)
- – Reduce the crippling working hours
- – Improve the accommodation
- – Better security.
- – Scholarships for reservation candidates
As a resident at one of the finest public hospital in Maharashtra, I completely agree with these demands. All, but one. The reservation issue, being too complex and warped to discuss in a forum as this one.
These are the basic issues which have been the talking point of every strike that has taken place in the past few years. So, what did the government do? Nothing! False promises, reassuarances & token stipend hikes of a few thousand rupees. That’s not enough.
The basic question arises that should doctors be allowed to strike work and put their patients lives at risk!
A short review of the history of strikes amongst the medicos will reveal the commonest causes of strikes: doctors made a part of the torture regimens of various oppressive governments have gone on strike in various countries (including our not-so-famous neighbours), doctors strike to reform medical education, doctors strike to protest against political interference in their profession & lastly and what seems the pettiest of reasons, doctors strike to demand a pay hike.
A strike is a way to make an apathetic government take note of the demands made by a certain group of people and fast track their implementation.
The MARD (Maharashtra association of resident doctors) was an organization formed by the resident doctors way back in the 80’s to have a representative body for those who are arguably the most ill-treated, overworked & underpaid trainees around.
The strikes have been for various reasons, one of the first, being a strike calling for the government and courts to prevent the mushrooming of private medical colleges & instead make way for more public medical colleges in the early 80’s.
The strike was unsuccessfull with the court ruling in favor of the government and allowing a large number of private medical colleges, most of which had politicians as their patrons. The results of that landmark verdict can now be seen, what with seats being sold for money by these colleges.
The strike at that time seemed unreasonable, unfathomable & a disgraceful act, as the patients were suffering. The patients weren’t suffering then, they are suffering now at the hands of those doctors with a paid degree.
This is exactly why everyone mustn’t view this strike as an impediment to patient care. If the resident doctors are overworked and underpaid, it will lead to decreased efficiency of the residents, misdiagnosis of the patients, poor treatment and increased costs to treat sick doctors. It will very soon lead to a situation where there will be a complete collapse of the public health system. That will affect patient care and harm the sick and needy in the long run.
If the public has a far-sighted approach to this strike rather than a myopic view, they will realize how this strike is actually to prevent the public health system from collapsing in future, to provide better healthcare to the public & save the tax-payers money in the long run.