KOCHI: Leena, a city dweller, had no idea getting a doctor’s appointment would eat up her entire day.
She had come to the general hospital here with her family as early as 5 :30 am to get an outpatient (OP) ticket. As she saw it, the earlier you arrive, the better your chances to get an early appointment. But she was surprised when OP services at the hospital did not begin as usual.
What Leena, who had come to consult the doctor for her husband’s illness, did not know was the doctors were on a strike on the call of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) against the National Medical Commission Bill. Not just her. Hundreds of patients who were at the hospital with their families waited over an hour for the OP to begin functioning.
“We were unaware about the doctors’ strike. We came early to get an early appointment,” said Leena, who was at the hospital till noon.It were not just patients who were affected by the strike. Parents who had brought their kids for an IQ test also had to wait. Some of them were even annoyed.
The situation was similar in private hospitals. In some private hospitals, doctors went on strike only for an hour on humanitarian grounds. However, most hospitals saw a full-on strike, until it was called off by midday. By the time, many patients who had come from other districts for treatment had returned home. Doctors who are IMA members sported a black ribbon on their clothes as a mark of protest. The strike had the support of Kerala Private Hospital Association.
“Since we only gave notice 48 hours before and not at least a week, doctors in some places went on strike for only an hour or so. All emergency cases were tended to. We were insistent our strike should not affect patients,” said IMA president Dr Varghese Cherian.
The strike at Kalamassery Medical College was subdued. Doctors here have already planned a strike on January 9 against the government’s policy towards the college following the government takeover in 2013. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other staff of the hospital will go on strike on the day.