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Why government doctors in Gujarat are protesting

  Nearly 10,000 government doctors have been on strike in Gujarat since April 4. What are they protesting? How has this affected medical services? Nearly 10,000 doctors of government hospitals, government medical colleges, the Gujarat Medical Education Research Society (GMERS) and dental teachers of government medical colleges under the aegis of the Gujarat Government Doctors Forum (GGDF) have been on strike since April 4. What is the reason for the doctors’ protest in Gujarat? On May 16, 2021, the Gujarat government, under former chief minister Vijay Rupani’s leadership, had issued a government resolution (GR) addressing several demands of senior doctors, some of which dated back to 2012.The issues addressed included those pertaining to pension benefits, direct recruitment for ad hoc appointments, payment of non-practising allowance and salary increments. However, the GR was not implemented as months later on November 22, 2021, the government issued a second GR, withdrawing the earlier May 2021 one. The key demand now is that the May 16, 2021 GR be implemented. Among the issues raised is senior doctors not being promoted for nearly two decades. They also want the government to stop making contractual hires as it lacks accountability, especially in times of crisis and duress as was seen during the Covid 19 pandemic. How has the Gujarat strike affected medical services? The strike is being witnessed not only by government doctors of government and government aided medical colleges, but also government doctors from PHCs and CHCs. With these doctors not reporting for duty, including for OPD services, this has affected planned surgeries in hospitals. Emergency patients and patients in labour, however, are being attended to by resident doctors and contractually hired doctors The Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, for instance, has postponed planned surgeries, and to supplement the shortage of staff, is relying on doctors from UN Mehta Institute of Cardiology, Gujarat Cancer Research Institute, and Institute of Kidney Diseases Research Centre. This is along with contractual staff who have been asked to handle emergency and OPD procedures. Surgeries being conducted at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital have fallen by about 80 per cent due to the strike. Post-mortem procedures, too, are seeing a delay. There are queues and longer wait times for patients, including in OPD. While the striking doctors say they are aware of the difficulties patients are being put through, they add that they have been left with no other way to air their grievances after nearly six months of trying different avenues to implore the state to act on their demands.
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