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Kerala doctors' strike: Rights panel intervenes as patients left in the lurch

Kerala State Human Rights Commission  (KSHRC) on Saturday ordered the government to look into the prospect of an amicable settlement in the issue.

Published: 15th April 2018 03:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th April 2018 03:17 AM   |  A+A-

Patients waiting outside the casualty wing of the Ernakulam General Hospital on Saturday, the second day of the statewide strike called by government doctors | Albin Mathew

By Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As the state-wide indefinite protest by a section of doctors under the banner of Kerala Government Medical Officers’ Association (KGMOA) completed the second day, the state government has started to feel the heat.

While the KGMOA is planning to intensify the protest as it passes the buck on the government for the current conundrum, the Kerala State Human Rights Commission  (KSHRC) on Saturday ordered the government to look into the prospect of an amicable settlement in the issue.

“It is condemnable the Health Minister is remaining adamant. The government is not taking any initiative to settle the issue. Instead it is trying to clamp down on the protest with an iron hand. The KGMOA will take a strong stance against such a move,” said Jithesh V, secretary, KGMOA.

According to Jithesh, the strike is getting overwhelming response and the feedback from the general body meeting convened at the respective districts on Saturday was to intensify the protest and not to succumb to the pressure tactics of the Health Department.

“What we like to remind the government is that if any disciplinary action is initiated against any of the striking doctors, the KGMOA will be forced to intensify its protest and will consider various prospects including tendering mass resignation. We are ready for talks, but the government is not budging,”  Jithesh said.

At the same time,  while considering a petition filed by two human rights activists, the KSHRC ordered the government to make an effective intervention as the protest is denying the common man’s right to avail of timely treatment.

“The Chief Secretary, as well as the Health Secretary, should make effective intervention to settle the strike. To deny treatment to patients amounts to blatant violation of human rights. Though the doctors have the right to protest, it shouldn’t be at the expense of the patients’ health and life,” states an order of KSHRC acting chairman P Mohanadas.  

While observing the strike call is in violation of the citizen’s right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, Mohanadas further directed the state government to take needful action to settle the protest.
Meanwhile, on the second day, disregarding government’s ultimatum to resume duty, around 4,300 doctors from various parts of the state stayed away from duty. According to KGMOA, the boycott was total in the state and the future course of the strike will be discussed in its state-committee meeting scheduled to take place in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

The other day, Health Minister K K Shylaja had stated that the strike call by the doctors is nothing but illegal and the protesters will be seriously dealt with.

Following this, Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan came out with a circular stating disciplinary proceedings will be initiated against the striking doctors. While mainly recommending three disciplinary actions against the striking doctors, the Health Secretary further instructed Director of Health Services R L Saritha to ensure the same.

KGMOA had called the boycott protest on Friday following the decision to extend the time of outpatient (OP) facility in family health centres (FHC) without ensuring adequate staff. The boycott was also against the suspension of a doctor at the Kumaramputhur Family Health Centre.

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