Consider our Residency as Bond Service: 4,000 Gujarat Doctors on Strike, Shut OPD

Ahmedabad: Seeking exemption from the bond service mandate, around 4,000 resident doctors from five government-run medical colleges in Gujarat have gone on an indefinite strike demanding the government to consider months of their senior residency period served during the COVID-19 pandemic equivalent to the compulsory bond service.

Currently, the doctors have shut all routine OPD and OT services, but have threatened a full-fledged strike if the demands are not met.

Meanwhile, the State Health Minister has warned of disciplinary action if the strike continues majorly disrupting health services in Gujarat.

Residency and Bond:

Residency is a year-long specialised training after three years of the PG medical programme and becomes compulsory for the medicos if one wants to apply for teaching positions.

In Gujarat, those candidates admitted through state quota seats, are also required to serve a year-long rural bond service, separate from the residency period. If any student wants to break the bond signed at the time of taking admission, he has to pay Rs 40 lakh. This rule is applicable to students of the six government medical colleges in the state.

Medicos demand equivalency of residency to Bond service period similar to last year:

The students of the 2019 batch, who have completed their course and are about to start their senior residency of nearly 12 months in hospitals attached to their respective colleges, had been demanding that the government should this residency period as the bond period.

Junior Doctors’ Association (JDA) of BJ Medical College has been raising the issue since last year and had in February this year made written representations to the Chief Minister’s office as well as to the health minister.

In March, the health minister wrote to the additional chief secretary of the health department advising them to “take appropriate actions” with respect to the request put forth by JDA. BJMC post-graduate course director and medical superintendent of Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, on May 28 and June 6 respectively, wrote to the additional chief secretary endorsing and recommending for counting bond service equal to the residency period.

Last year, after 10 days of long agitation of doctors in all of Gujarat, the state government finally issued an order stating that the Senior Residency (SR) years of the resident doctors would be considered as part of the bond period in the ratio of 1:1. This year, the medicos are seeking the same relief as they had also served during the pandemic.

Read Aso: Gujarat equates bond service during COVID with senior residency, doctors call off strike

Doctors go on Strike!

Out of the state’s six government medical colleges – Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar, resident doctors in Surat refrained from joining the strike and they gave one more day to the government to resolve the issue.

As of now, the resident doctors have withdrawn from attending to all routine OPD (Out Patient Department) services for an indefinite period. Though they are available for emergency and COVID-19 services, their associations have threatened to launch a full-fledged strike in the coming days if the issue remains unresolved, reports PTI.

Speaking to the Indian Express, a JDA office-bearer said, “Of the 36 months of course-work as a post-graduate course candidate, we served nearly 16-17 months in Covid wards, which also affected our academics as we were not dealing with regular OPDs. The state government considered equating the senior residency period with the mandatory bond period for those admitted in 2017 and 2018 but has not considered the same for those admitted in 2019, despite the Covid work that was done by the 2019 batch as well.”

“Our demand is legitimate because students of this batch had served COVID-19 patients for 17 months, out of the total 36 months of the course. If the previous batches are exempted from bond service on the same ground, then why can’t the government consider the batch of 2019 for the same relief?” asked Dr Rahul Gameti, president of the Junior Doctors’ Association in Ahmedabad.

Warning to Doctors!

While hospital authorities have made alternate arrangements to cope up with the impact of the strike, Gujarat Health Minister Rushikesh Patel said the resident doctors cannot shy away from serving people in rural areas, as per their bond condition. He has warned of disciplinary action against the agitating doctors.

“We will take disciplinary action if required. I urge these doctors to end the strike and join duties at the earliest. I don’t agree with their demands. The government spends a considerable amount to make them specialist doctors. Thus, you have to serve in villages after completing your PG,” Patel told reporters, quotes PTI.

Strike Impact?

According to officials at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, which is affiliated to the government-run B J Medical College, there is no major impact of the strike as of now.

“To cope up with the situation, we have cancelled the vacations of our faculty members and transferred non-clinical staff to clinical branches. As of now, there is no major impact on the services because the resident doctors have withdrawn themselves only from routine duties,” the civil hospital’s superintendent, Dr Rakesh Joshi, said.

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