Return to work at once, HC tells striking Maharashtra docs

The Bombay High Court today asked striking resident doctors in Maharashtra to resume work immediately, while chief minister Devendra Fadnavis appealed to them to call of the four-day stir, assuring security in hospitals.

In Delhi, union health minister J P Nadda asked states to take measures to improve security of doctors.

After the HCs direction and the CMs appeal, the representatives of the protesting doctors went into a huddle to discuss the directive and the further steps to be taken.

According to Dr Sagar Mundada, the chairman of the Indian Medical Associations youth wing, a decision on the matter will be taken soon.

Nearly 4,000 resident doctors have been striking since Monday, demanding enhanced security in the wake of a string of attacks on doctors by patients' relatives at government hospitals across the state.

The protests have been hampering the services of Out-Patient Departments (OPDs) in various hospitals.

The HC asked the doctors to get back to work and resolve their issues and demands amicably with the government.

A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice G S Kulkarni gave the directive while hearing a petition filed by activist Afak Mandaviya seeking action against the protesting doctors.

"First you resume, we will look into security measures by the state," the bench told the doctors.

Advocate general Rohit Deo informed the bench that he will file an undertaking that 1,100 security personnel will be deployed all over the state. He said by 5 April, 500 Maharashtra State Security Corporation personnel will be deployed at hospitals in the city and the remaining by 15 April.

Justice Chellur said, "I will myself make a visit to the hospitals to check if they are there." She added, "We will hear the matter every 15 days to check for substantial compliance."

The bench reiterated its previous order of allowing only two relatives per patient in all civic and state-run hospitals to avoid any mishap.

The court told the president and secretary of Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors present in court, "Tell your members your profession is sacred, you can't go on strike. We understand the state has not done what it should have done but that will be taken care of."

The bench then took on record an undertaking by them that said, "We will take steps to request all the members to join their duty." The HC also directed the government and management of various hospitals not to take any punitive action against the doctors who were served notice on Wednesday for not resuming their duties.

"The doctors will have to first go and resume their duty. All other issues can be amicably sorted out gradually," Chief Justice Chellur said.

"We understand that the doctors are working in strained and horrible conditions sometimes, but we request them to resume work immediately," she said.

Chief minister Fadnavis, while making a statement in the state Legislative Assembly on the ongoing strike and its fallout on the public healthcare system, urged the doctors to follow their professional ethics by serving the people.

"Because of the acts of a few irresponsible people of attacking doctors, it is not right to deny the poor their right to access to the medical facilities. I appeal to the doctors and their organisations to call off the strike and return to work," he said.

The government had spoken to representatives of the striking doctors and accepted all their demands, he said.

"The state has enacted special laws to protect doctors. The quantum of punishment has been increased and attacks on doctors made a non-bailable offence," the CM said.