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In most states, doctors have decided that non-essential medical services - which include services at Out-Patient Departments in hospitals - would be withdrawn for 24 hours starting 6 am on Monday.
But with talks on the between the Bengal government and the doctors on the cards, some hospitals may not go ahead with the strike. The resident doctors' association at Delhi's premier AIIMS hospital withdrew their protest late Sunday.
The junior doctors in Bengal, who had so far refused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's appeal for talks, softened their stand today. "We are keen to end this impasse. We are ready to hold talks with the chief minister at a venue of her choice, provided it is held in the open, in the presence of media persons, and not behind closed doors," a spokesperson of the doctors said after a two-hour meeting.
Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has asked states to draw up laws to safeguard the doctors. But the IMA has called for a comprehensive law in dealing with violence on doctors and healthcare staff. It also wants security measures to be specified.
On Friday, in response to the government's offer for talks, the doctors had put forth a six-point demand that included better security, action against those who assaulted the junior doctor and an apology from Mamata Banerjee, who earlier said the striking doctors were "outsiders".
Ms Banerjee, who also threatened action against the protesting doctors, has pointed out that through there is a law against strikes by employees in essential services - the Essential Services Maintenance Act or ESMA - her government has not invoked it.
The doctors had gone on strike last week. On Friday, nearly 300 doctors resigned from the government hospitals in Bengal.
The protests have spread to other parts of the country. On Friday, the Delhi Medical Association called for a statewide medical shutdown and a token strike was held by the resident doctors of Delhi's All-India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Safdarjung Hospital.
Around 4,500 doctors in Maharashtra stopped attending to patients in all the 26 government hospitals. In Hyderabad, doctors staged a protest at the Nizam's Institute Of Medical Sciences.
The junior doctors' strike in Bengal, on since Tuesday, has hit services in the state's government-run hospitals. Over the last days, services have been affected in emergency wards, outdoor facilities and pathological units of many state-run hospitals.