With a list of 12 demands, 31 junior doctors representing their fraternity met Banerjee in the presence of Minister of State Chandrima Bhattacharya, administrative heads, police and senior doctors; the meeting was telecast live from the secretariat.
Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi welcomed the breakthrough and hoped that doctors will take up the work of care and treatment of patients, and the state government will take all the steps that it committed to in the meeting expeditiously.
The breakthrough came on a day health services, especially out-patient departments (OPDs), were crippled across the country as doctors held protests and boycotted work to show solidarity with their colleagues in West Bengal who were on strike since last Tuesday protesting assault on their colleague by kin of a patient who died in NRS Hospital and Medical College here.
Earlier, the protesting doctors had agreed for a meeting the chief minister only if it was telecast live by the media. Last Friday and Saturday, they had twice declined to hold talks with Banerjee.
Besides a series of demands and wish list, which included governance and infrastructural issues at the various government-aided and private medical colleges in the state, the protestors were seeking the presence of armed police force at hospitals to protect doctors from any assault. They also wanted assault on doctors being made a non-bailable offence.
While hearing the demand of the agitators, Banerjee suggested that nodal officers will be appointed and look after all security aspects, including security of the doctors at all state-run hospitals, and advised the state’s health department to appoint public relations officers who will communicate with the relatives of a patient, informing them about the health condition of the patient or his/her death.
“A third person needs to be involved who will have the requisite empathy to deal with the patient’s relatives," Banerjee said.
Besides, a grievance cell will be set-up at all government-run hospitals and initiatives will be taken to educate people to register their complaint in that cell, rather than direct their anger at doctors.
While police have been instructed by the chief minister to control the inflow of crowd at the hospitals, in cases of emergency, only two people accompanying the patient will be allowed.
While expressing her pain at the recent instance of a junior doctor at the NRS state-run hospital being beaten up after a patient died, Banerjee said, “We always appeal to people not to take law and order in their hands; we even have laws for it. But such spontaneous instances do happen. There is a need for civic awareness and civil duties of people."
She reasoned that while it is possible for the administration to prevent and control 99 per cent of the cases where public outburst is directed towards doctors, 1 per cent of the incidents are impulsive and cannot be foreseen.
However, Banerjee didn’t promise the presence of armed police at state-run hospitals but advised police to step up security to prevent any such furore.