Some 3,500 junior doctors working in six government medical colleges in Madhya Pradesh have resigned, a worrying development in the middle of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The resignations came hours after the Madhya Pradesh High Court on Thursday directed doctors to end their four-day strike, calling it "illegal".
The doctors say they want increased stipend and better medical facilities for their families amid Covid. The government says it is already on the job. Patients and their families are suffering because of the strike, the government said.
The doctors have demanded that beds for junior doctors serving Covid patients be reserved in separate areas in case they get infected, 24 per cent hike in stipend and another 6 per cent annual hike in stipend, among others.
State Medical Education Minister Vishvas Sarang has said the government would accept their demands, but no written order has been issued.
The high court has told the doctors to return to work immediately. If they don't return to duty, the state government should take tough action against them, the court said.
Soon after the court order was received, Madhya Pradesh Medical University in Jabalpur cancelled the registrations of 450 junior doctors. Hurt by these two incidents, all junior doctors in the state announced they have resigned.
"We want better security; many times we get beaten up. If we or our families get infected, there are no beds for us," said Dr Saurabh Tiwari, a member of the Junior Doctors' Association.
Another doctor, Dr Priyanka Meena, said, "When the pandemic was at its peak, we listened to all assurances and kept on working. If we wanted to take advantage of a medical emergency, we would have done this at the peak and not now."
The Madhya Pradesh government has said it is working to raise the stipend of doctors and to fulfil most other demands. For example, it said police posts will be set up at all government hospitals to protect doctors.
"One of the demands they are stuck on is they do not want to work in rural areas. What will happen in villages then? They should listen to the high court. It is not right to blackmail patients like this," Medical Education Minister Vishwas Sarang said.
Medical Education Commissioner Nishant Warwade said the government runs courses according to the Madhya Pradesh Medical Education Admission Rules, 2018, and amendments on in June 2019 for admission of students selected via NEET in undergraduate and postgraduate courses on the basis of merit in medical and dental colleges.
If a candidate resigns after a certain time limit under this law, the conditions of a bond on leaving the seat will be applicable to him or her. Under this, if the candidate resigns from the admitted seat of any government medical and government dental college, the bond amount of Rs 10 lakh will be payable to the institution. The above rules are applicable to students admitted from 2018.