Medical services in 17 government hospitals in Maharashtra were severely impacted March 20 after over 4,000 resident doctors went on a mass casual leave to protest the growing number of attacks by patients' relatives.
The High Court's move comes as Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) continued their strike on Tuesday as it entered the fifth day today. But the young doctors remained firm in their demand for adequate security to protect them from recent attacks by enraged relatives of patients in Dhule, and Sion in Mumbai. The PIL said that the strike was causing severe hardships to poor patients who couldn't afford visiting private hospitals. A public interest writ petition was filed on Monday in Bombay High Court against the doctors' agitation by a social activist which is expected to be heard later Tuesday. The court, however, said other permanent staff doctors and nurses were there to attend to patients. Although senior doctors were handling serious or emergency cases, an estimated 400 scheduled surgeries had to be postponed on Monday. "Will the dead person's life come back if they kill the doctor", it said. Although Chief Justice Chellur did not believe this situation was due to the strike but the government pleader, appearing for the state government, told the court that the health care in civic and state-run hospitals was paralysed due to 60 per cent of its workforce not reporting to work.
Mandaviya's lawyer Datta Mane informed the court that around 58 people had died during the resident doctor's strike.
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The Bench also questioned the state government what protection was being provided to the doctors according to their earlier undertaking. "We have already asked security guards to restrict the number of visitors per patient to two but it has not been easy to do so", he said. But every case can not be due to negligence. "It's a shame. How can you (resident doctors) say first provide security only then we will work?" asked Chief Justice Chellur.
Henceforth, only two relatives of any patient shall be permitted with special passes and those found without the valid passes shall be prosecuted, said Additional Municipal Commissioner I.A. Kundan. However, if the medicos decline and want more, and the Maharashtra government disagrees, the government can invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), which will force the doctors to return to work.