NMC Bill protestors divided: Resident doctors call off strike, IMA calls for another

While resident doctors are content on being assured to be consulted, the IMA insists on continuing the protest

By Banjot Kaur
Published: Monday 05 August 2019
File photo of doctors protesting in Rishikesh on July 31, 2019
File photo of doctors protesting in Rishikesh on July 31, 2019 File photo of doctors protesting in Rishikesh on July 31, 2019

The resident doctors have broken ranks with the Indian Medical Association over the issue of protests against the National Medical Commission Bill.

While the Resident Doctors’ Association, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Federation of Resident Doctors Association have called off the strike, the IMA on August 4, 2019 issued a press release calling for yet another protest on August 8.

The resident doctors’ associations called off the strike August 4 midnight after meeting with Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan. “The minister has assured us that at the time when regulations for the Bill would be made by a gazetted notification, we would be consulted as stakeholders. We are happy with the fact that at least we would be considered as that,” said Amarinder Singh Malhi, head of RDA, AIIMS.

While the doctors believe that written assurance by Vardhan is reliable, it is silent on how their specific demands would be addressed.

Opposition divided

When asked about IMA’s impending protest, Malhi said, “The IMA is inconsistent with its calls. It would strike for one day and then resume work for some days before giving a call again for strike. There is no continuity and hence their protests did not yield any results.”

These breaks were taken so patients can be attended, said the IMA. “We can’t give knee-jerk reactions and make patients suffer continuously. So, we give breaks to our protest. That is our line of thought,” said RV Asokan, IMA secretary.

Also, the IMA insists over continuing the protests. “The emergency meeting of Extended Action Committee has called for withdrawal of services of modern medicine doctors on August 8. The call is for all the modern medicine doctors across all the sectors at all the levels,” read the press release issued late August 4 evening.

The IMA has left the decision of withdrawing emergency services besides out-patient department and in-patient department to IMA’s state chapters, said Asokan.

Up till now, all of IMA’s protests against the Bill had exempted emergency services.

Over resident doctors resuming services, Asokan said, “Theirs is an independent organisation. While ours consists of teachers, government doctors and private practitioners, theirs comprises fresh graduates. We had invited them in solidarity as elders. We have supported all their protests and vice-versa. They can only reply as to why they went back.”

In fact, Harsh Vardhan tweeted:

Now that both Houses of Parliament have passed the Bill, the IMA recognises that the fight is tougher.

“We do recognise that now the fight is very difficult. We are trying to tell people how they would be impacted. The last resort is a legal remedy but it is not on our radar currently as we still want to engage with the government,” said Asokan.

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