What Does the Doctors' Strike in West Bengal Tell Us About Our Society?

The State of West Bengal and its Healthcare Services were shaken up by a Doctor's Strike which erupted in the state in the month of June this year, spilling over to other parts of the country. The events shall lead us to reflect on where we are as a society and the treatment the doctors receive from us. It shall also educate us so that such events are avoided in the future. 

What Led to the Strike 

The events started unfolding when seventy-five-year-old Mohammed Sayeed was admitted to the NRS Medical College & Hospital due to severe illness. According to the family members, they reached to several doctors onsite, but none of them responded because of which the junior doctors needed to step in.

Ill-fatedly, Mohammed Sayeed passed away, and the family members were hard-bitten by the situation which made them believe that the negligence of doctors was the crux of the matter. Unable to control their rage, the family members misbehaved with the doctors. After that, the deceased family members were stopped by the doctors when they asked to take over the body until the family members apologized. This was enough to enrage the relatives further, at which they gathered over 200 persons and thrashed the two interns, leaving them stiffly wounded.

The Protests 

Seeing the two interns suffer, a strike soon spread across the state which would extend to the whole country. On 12th June, the junior doctors united together to raise their voice against the assaults which were going on for quite some time and they further demanded more security at the workplace. Next day, West Bengal's Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee gave an ultimatum to the junior doctors to get back to work or face the consequences. This unfitting reply by Mamata Banerjee pulled more doctors in the strike and the Indian Medical Association(IMA)to declare a nationwide protest. 

The Union Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan responded to CM's ultimatum via twitter, "I feel very sad that doctors across India had to strike work in protest against atrocities on doctors in W Bengal & consequently patients across India are suffering. I appeal to @Mamtaofficial to withdraw her ultimatum to the medical community & not make this a prestige issue". 

On 14th July, IMA drew more doctors to participate in the strike to raise their voice at a higher level. The next day, Mamata Banerjee invited the senior doctors over to talk, but they refused to do so and asked her to give an apology instead. On the 16th of June, medical services in some states were forced to shut down completely to carry out the strike. Finally, on June 17, the strike was called off after Mamata Banerjee agreed to the conditions and ensured more safety to the doctors at their workplace.

What Needs to Change 

The kernel of this seven-day long strike was not a single case alone, but it also revolved around the other incidents which were coming up since the last year, especially in West Bengal, along with other parts of the country. One such case made it to the headlines in August, last year, in which Pulak Kumar Dutta, a police officer thrashed a doctor at Calcutta Medical Research Institute(CMRI). The Indian Medical Association(IMA) requested the CM on several occasions to provide additional security to the medical officers, but they were all in vain.

 If we dig deeper into the strikes it all points towards us, the common people, how we fail to handle our emotions in the time of sorrow and grief? How inhuman we can turn once we face loss and after all, how easy is blame doctors even in cases that are helpless. 

We as a society definitely have room for improvement which we should act on soon, otherwise, these clashes are going to happen again. We fail to recognize that when the doctors head up to a strike, the devil is set loose and we may be unfortunate enough to see him knocking at our door, and at that time there won't be a doctor present in the hospital capable of offering any real help.

We often become so self-centred that we forget, our country is still developing, poverty and overpopulation still remain menacing threats that we are battling with since our independence. The World Health Organisation(WHO) set up the 1:1000, doctor-patient ratio as a norm, but in India, the actual ratio varies between 1:1674-1:2000, which is far less than the official standard. 

This answers the problem of non-availability of doctors in India, and why our medical services are lagging behind and why the patients are sometimes left unattended, even during the time of emergency. The strikes also exposed our political system, which paid no heed to the voice of doctors for up to seven days, even though the medical services were nearly put to a halt in the given period.

It is obvious that we can't make doctors live up to our standards overnight, but we can make efforts to carry out the processes smoothly so that no time is wasted in fighting among ourselves. Further, we should not forget about the services which the doctors have been offering to society and how important their role is.  In fact, we should work together to make our country great. 

Sachin Kumar 

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What Does the Doctors' Strike in West Bengal Tell Us About Our Society? What Does the Doctors' Strike in West Bengal Tell Us About Our Society? Reviewed by EMN on June 28, 2019 Rating: 5

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