- Doctors who work at public hospitals want the same pay as their federal counterparts
- The strike has crippled health care delivery in Rajasthan
- Police have arrested 394 doctors for failing to deliver critical services
- The state government has made interim arrangements at hospitals
(CNN) — At Zenana hospital in the western Indian city of Jaipur, Nasroon Bano died after giving birth. Her family blamed it on the absence of doctors.
Zenana like Rajasthan’s other public hospitals was in crisis Saturday as 10,000 doctors remained on strike for a fourth day.
The doctors, who work at government-run hospitals that cater to the poor, are demanding higher salaries and better promotion opportunities that are on par with their counterparts in federal medical services.
But so far, the state government has not budged.
Instead, it made interim arrangements by bringing in 373 military doctors Saturday, said Dr. Lokendra Sharma of SMS Medical College in Jaipur. Another 1,000 doctors will be brought in Monday, he said.
The government has also tapped doctors from railway services, brought others out of retirement and has asked some private hospitals to provide care at government rates.
Attempts to reach state health officials were not immediately successful Saturday.
As of Saturday evening, police had arrested 394 striking doctors, most of them for violating the Essential Services Management Act, said Navdeep Singh, Rajasthan’s director general for law and order. The act was created to ensure the delivery of critical services.
Among those arrested was Durga Shankar Saini, head of the All Medical Doctors Society who posted a photograph of himself protesting in front of SMS Hospital dressed like Mahatma Gandhi in a white shawl and dhoti, a traditional Indian dress worn by men.
“Everyone is distraught,” said Sanjeev Jain, Saini’s personal secretary. “It’s a very difficult situation.”
Sharma said the strike has crippled Rajasthan’s health services and described conditions in the public hospitals as dire.
Patients needing emergency services found themselves waiting. Sharma said 26 patients had died since the strike began, though it was not clear whether they might have died anyway even after receiving treatment.
Lakhan Singh waited with his 55-year-old mother for doctors to see treat her for kidney problems at SMS Hospital. He had traveled from Bharatpur, about 100 miles away, because there were no doctors at the government hospital there, he told CNN’s sister network CNN-IBN.
Desperate, Singh took his mother to a private hospitals, where he spent all the $530 he had in his pocket. His money gone, he had no options left but to wait at SMS, CNN-IBN reported. And hope for a doctor.
“Patients, they are dying,” said Dr. Ganpat Chandra Gupta, an anesthesiologist.
He said the government needs to negotiate with the state’s government doctors.
“They are working in poor conditions,” he said. “The government is deaf and dumb and blind.”
Some questioned whether doctors ought to go on strike, risking death and injury for the sick.
But doctors in other Indian states sent letters of support for the peers in Rajasthan condemning the “insensitive and callous attitude” of the state government.
“The profession of doctors is very noble but when their voice is not heard they are forced to go on the path of agitation,” said a letter signed by the heads of thee medical associations in Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.