NEIGRIHMS resident doctors’ strike may well violate ESMA

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In one of the most unfortunate turn of events where the resident doctors of North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health & Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS) called for a total shutdown of services, demanding for the immediate removal of the Director of the Institute, Dr DM Thapa, have affected the patients hailing from all over the North Eastern Region.

The cease work on April 4, 2019, should attract the attention of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as NEIGRIHMS is an Autonomous Institute under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India and declared as “Centre of excellence” by the Parliament of India. Which also means the strike may well violate the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), an act of the Parliament of India which was established to ensure the delivery of certain services, which if obstructed would affect the normal life of the people. This include services like public transport (bus services), health services (doctors and hospitals).

It may be mentioned that NEIGRIHMS-Resident Doctors’ Association (NRDA) also shot a letter to the Secretary, Health Nirman Bhawan, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for immediate intervention into the grievances while alleging an autocratic mode of functioning of the Director, Dr Thapa.

The doctors justified that they have no other option left to save this institute from further devastation.

The point to ponder: although the administrative issues in the hospital does demand some harsh action, but taking the patients as ransom is a total violation of the ESMA. NRDA should be more aggressive in attracting the attention of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and its 13-point letter should have also taken into consideration the grievances of the patients, where few of the departments have been outsourced, and not only pointing out how they have lost few departments and posts.

The priority should be for the interest of the patients, and then comes the facilities for the resident doctors along with other staffs. In most cases, the central officials who visit the hospitals in Shillong for inspection, be it the surprise visit, have only focused on the machines and few administrative related issues. The point of views either from the students and the patients are conveniently avoided.

In order to materialize the struggle of NRDA, if the concerns of the patients and the attendants are also taken into consideration, it will surely strengthen the movement. Above that, as this strike also coincides with the upcoming Lok Sabha Election on April 11 next, the health care issues should definitely be pushed towards aspiring candidates as one of the agenda.

Of course no candidate will take up the issues for removal of the Director of NEIGRIHMS as of now, but for the welfare of the hospital and improving the services surely should be listed in the manifesto of all the candidates. Streamlining the administration or the removal of the Director can be in the priority list of the winner after May 23 next. Taking it as the mandate to streamline the services of NEIGRIHMS may be the turning point of the winner by securing the seat, enabling the representative to be re-elected in 2024 as well.