Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday gave an ultimatum to striking resident doctors to resume duty or face legal action even as the Bombay High Court gave the state-run hospitals an option to terminate their services.
"Enough is enough. If the doctors fail to resume work today, government will not sit quietly," Fadnavis said, describing as "adamant" and "insensitive" the attitude of doctors whose strike in support of enhanced security at hospitals entered the fifth day.
"We cannot leave the patients to die. I am making a final attempt to break the deadlock by meeting the doctors representatives. If no solution is found and doctors dont resume work, they should be prepared to face legal action," the Chief Minister told the state legislative assembly.
Nearly 4,000 resident doctors have stayed away from work since Monday, demanding enhanced security in the wake of a string of attacks on their colleagues by patients relatives at government hospitals across the state.
Accusing the doctors of being "insensitive", he said it is difficult to accept a situation where the patients were left to die.
"What is the difference between anti-social tendencies that result in incidents of beating up the doctors and the doctors themselves abstaining from work after taking the oath to treat the sick. I am surprised by the adamant stand of the doctors despite assuring them that the Government fully supports their demand," the CM said.
"They should not wait to be referred to as demons. What kind of politics is being played out (by them)?" he said.
Coming down heavily on doctors, Chief Justice Manjula Chellur said," the doctors are taking undue advantage of us and our sympathy. If you keep stretching the matter like this then the public will come and hit you. You are creating this atmosphere."
A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice G S Kulkarni said if this was the "attitude" of the doctors, then the respective hospital management can initiate action against them and "terminate" their services. The court said this when it was informed by petitioner Afak Mandaviyas lawyer Datta Mane that the doctors have still not resumed duty.
"Despite assurances if the doctors have not resumed then we think we made a mistake yesterday by showing them sympathy and appreciating their work," the bench said.
With the doctors still keeping away from work, the functioning of the OPDs and general wards in the government and the civic hospitals remained hit for the fifth day on Friday.
"The OPDs in KEM, Sion and Nair hospitals have not yet become fully operational. Some doctors are managing them but it has increased the waiting period for patients," Dr Avinash Supe, dean of KEM Hospital, told PTI.
"Very few have returned to work. Hence, full medical services will not be available immediately," he said.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has made an appeal to the MARD (Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors) to resume duty.
A meeting was held today between Medical Education Minister Girish Mahajan and representatives of the resident doctors, an IMA member said.
The representatives of IMA called on the chief minister at Vidhan Bhavan in afternoon.
Fadnavis told them that security has already been provided in 16 hospitals since yesterday. "Government is working on (providing) security to doctors and more arrangements will be done within ten days," he said.
The High Court had on Thursday directed the doctors to resume work immediately.
Late last night, the MARD made an appeal to the striking medical practitioners to join duty, which failed to evoke a firm response from the doctors.
Fadnavis, during a meeting with representatives of striking doctors, had said that an apex council would be set up to address the issue of security in hospitals.
The strike was triggered by the beating up of a doctor in Dhule recently. The doctors complained that it was just the latest in a series of such incidents.
They want a written assurance from the Government on the security in hospitals.
"We have been fooled in the past when promises and assurances made by officials were not strictly implemented. This time we are being careful," said a MARD official, explaining the delay in the doctors returning to work.
(All images sourced from PTI)