After an attack on a post-graduate doctor at Hyderabad's Gandhi Hospital by attendants of a patient who died on Tuesday evening, over 200 doctors from the hospital sat on a protest, boycotting work and patients.
For 18 hours, the doctors, residents, house surgeons and others first sat inside the hospital compound outside the Gandhi Hospital building and later shifted out of the complex, on to the main road, though the police tried to stop them.
The post-graduate resident doctor had been attacked first with a plastic chair, then a metal stool, by relatives of a 55-year-old COVID-19 patient with co-morbid conditions who collapsed in the washroom of the Intensive Care Unit or ICU.
A house surgeon, Dr Ravi Chandra, says the hospital or government don't really seem to care about them or their safety.
"Few days ago, they made us sit in the sun for two hours to shower petals to show respect... We didn't ask to be appreciated like that. If you want to appreciate us, address our issues. Last night we were here for over four hours in the rain. Is this the respect you are giving your doctors? We need to be protected too. Do we have to worry about patients or do we have to worry about someone hitting us with metal stools? You can't protect the doctors who are fighting this war for you?" he said.
Doctors say the unfortunate incident on Tuesday evening was waiting to happen. They point out that Gandhi Hospital alone handling all COVID-19 patients of the state had overburdened the doctors and staff.
Dr Hemanth points out that this is the second such incident in two months. "From a 1,200-bed hospital, it was made 1,800 beds and now over 2,000 during COVID pandemic. Whereas there is no additions to the number of doctors and other paramedical staff. Patient care would get compromised," he says.
Dr Hitesh says even otherwise working conditions are very challenging. "We have no objection to this being made a COVID ICU centre but the number of staff here not enough to tackle this number of ICU patients. We have to wear PPE, have to be in ICU ward for 12 hours. Number of ICU patients was initially only 10. But now 250 ICU beds, 250 high dependency and 500 oxygen beds, so a total 1000-bed hospital for ICU only," he says.
Dr Bhavya says across the country doctors are working hard: "We have no objection in working... put our heart and soul, but we asking for our work to be shared. We alone cannot manage. Others have to involved because we have to plan for tomorrow too. So other doctors, other hospitals must be involved."
"What sense does it make for private hospitals to be closed and for us to take all the burden of disease," asks Dr Priya.
Gandhi Hospital superintendent, however, says doctors are not overburdened. "No they are not overburdened... there is adequate staff in fact, since there is no other speciality working, there are enough doctors and staff to handle since we are not handling other specialities now."
Late evening, the health minister met the doctors and promised to address their concerns. Doctors are not feeling reassured or assuaged. They don't want to resume work yet but there is political pressure as well as moral pressure of all those patients inside the hospital, waiting for them.