PATNA: Even as healthcare services at government hospitals in Bihar remained badly hit for the third consecutive day due to the strike by 80,000 contractual health workers, the state government on Wednesday ordered that all the striking employees be sacked and fresh hiring be conducted.
The move came despite thousands of health workers demonstrating in Patna and some district headquarters towns threatening self-immolation. The striking health workers include nursing staff, health managers, OT assistants, pharmacists, accountants, lab technicians, counsellors and data operators, who were hired on contracts under National Health Mission (NHM).
Encouraged by a Patna High Court judgment last month in favour of equal pay for contractual teachers as regular ones, the health workers began their statewide indefinite strike of work on Monday. They demand regularisation of their services, salaries equal to regular health department employees and other benefits.
The strike brought emergency healthcare services to a halt at most of the government hospitals in the state. Several pre-scheduled surgeries had to be put off at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) and Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) in Patna, said sources.
“Those who have boycotted work will not be paid. The process of terminating their work contracts will be taken at the earliest. Those who obstruct the staff willing to resume services will be liable to face criminal cases against them,” said a letter written by principal health secretary RK Mahajan to all district magistrates and civil surgeons.
The government’s move further enraged the health workers, who said they would intensify their agitations if the government carries out its “draconian decisions”.
“This decision is a most unfortunate development. It is not expected in a democratic country. The government’s effort to frighten health workers will not succeed as we will intensify our agitation against such draconian decisions,” said Lalan Kumar, the president of Bihar Contractual Health Workers Association (BCHWA).
He also the health workers would begin a mass hunger strike on Thursday unless the government revokes its decision for termination of their services. “Many striking health workers also plan to immolate themselves in protest against such injustice. We hope the government will consider our demands with sympathy,” said Kumar.