In the wake of protests by the medical fraternity in support of agitating doctors in Kolkata, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan Friday urged West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to not make this sensitive matter a "prestige issue" while asking her to ensure an "amicable end" to the stir.
In a letter to Banerjee, the Union minister urged her to ensure an "amicable end" to the protests and provide a secure working environment for doctors.
He also appealed to the agitating doctors, particularly in West Bengal, to hold symbolic protests and resume work so that patients do not suffer.
"Doctors should resort to other simple and symbolic ways of protest. As medical professionals, their duty is towards protecting the rights of their patients. Strike is certainly not the best way to protest. Patients should not be deprived of immediate and emergency healthcare facilities," the Union health minister said.
Junior doctors in West Bengal are on a strike since Tuesday after two of their colleagues were attacked and seriously injured allegedly by the relatives of a patient who died at NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata.
"Despite getting beaten up so badly, doctors have only asked her (Mamata Banerjee) to provide them adequate security and also demanded action against the perpetrators of the violence as per the law," Vardhan said.
"But instead of doing that, she warned them and gave an ultimatum which angered doctors across the country and they proceeded on strike.
"So if the chief minister acts in a sensitive manner in such a grave scenario, patients across the country will not suffer. I plead to the West Bengal chief minister to not make this an issue of prestige," he said.
He assured doctors that the government is committed to ensuring their safety and urged them to ensure that essential services are not disrupted.
A delegation of Resident Doctors Association of AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, United Resident and Doctors Association of India (URDA) and Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA), met Vardhan and gave a representation to him on the violence against doctors in West Bengal.
Expressing deep concern, Vardhan said, "I strongly condemn the unruly behaviour and assault on doctors. I will discuss it with the chief minister of Bengal."
The Union health minister further stated that he will discuss the matter of providing safety to hospitals with the Home Ministry and also take up the issue with chief ministers and health ministers of other states so that such incidents can be avoided in the future and doctors are provided a safe work environment.
"The states should take all possible preventive and deterrent measures, as deemed required so that a peaceful environment prevails, and doctors and clinical establishments discharge their duties and professional pursuit without fear or any violence and attacks on them.
"Together we shall ensure safe and cordial environment for doctors and patients," he said.
Vardhan also urged all patients and their family members to support doctors in performing their duties and professional pursuits in a peaceful and dedicated manner and not to resort to violence.
"Doctors are an integral pillar of the society and often work under stressful and difficult conditions. I appeal to all patients and their care-givers to observe restraint," he said.
Vardhan also said state governments should ensure that all such cases of violence are investigated promptly to ensure that criminals get prosecuted in a time-bound manner.
Scores of doctors at several government and private hospitals in Delhi held demonstrations Friday by marching and raising slogans to express solidarity with their protesting colleagues in West Bengal.
The doctors, in a memorandum submitted to Vardhan, demanded a central law against hospital violence. They have sought immediate security and intervention of the Centre to stop the "politically motivated atrocity" on the protesting doctors in West Bengal.
They have also demanded recruitment of both "armed and unarmed trained competent security guards" at all government health facilities and increasing the number of security staff at hostels.
The delegation also sought making CCTV vigilance in every hospital mandatory and implementation of a hotline alarm system.
Vardhan has assured the doctors that he will look into their demands.
Doctors under the banner of the Resident Doctors' Association (RDA) held out marches in the AIIMS campus, with many wearing bandages on their foreheads while some worked wearing helmets. Resident doctors of the Safdarjung Hospital also took out protests in their campus
Healthcare services at private and government hospitals in the national capital are likely to be affected on Friday as scores of doctors began the boycott for a day.
There will be a complete shutdown of all out-patient departments (OPDs), routine operation theatre services and ward visits, except emergency services in the hospitals, several medical bodies of the city had said on Thursday.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)