Safdarjung doctors got their way but patients paid the price


New Delhi : father from Bihar had to get his baby’s cleft palate operated while a cancer patient waited for a blood transfusion… they waited, like many others, outside the national capital’s Safdarjung Hospital. The doctors’s strike was called off Wednesday, but it was the patients who bore the brunt of the protest.

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The hospital, which attracts patients from all over the country, normally sees around 7,000 patients at the out patient department (OPD) and some 1,500 to 2,000 patients in the emergency section. And the nearly two-day strike hit them hard.

Carrying his 10-month-old daughter in his arms, Bhupendra Prasad was a worried man, going from the hospital reception to inquiry centres, trying to catch the attention of any doctor who would operate upon his child’s cleft palate.

“I’ve come all the way from Munger (Bihar) to Delhi because the capital has better health services. The operation was to be done today (Wednesday) but they are refusing now due to the strike,” Prasad, a labourer, told IANS before the strike was called off.

Vikram Singh, 19, was equally harried. He had come from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh to get admitted for a hernia operation due Thursday. “I reached Delhi in the morning with my friend. Since morning we are sitting underneath this tree with nobody is answering us. I don’t know what to do and where to go,” said Singh, sitting on a cement bench.

Wednesday morning saw about 100 patients and their families camping outside the Safdarjung Hospital.

Saleem Jahan had a similar story to tell as he waited with his family inside the hospital premises for treatment of his cancer-stricken mother.

“My mother is suffering from chest cancer and she’s undergoing chemotherapy. After fixing an appointment for blood transfusion for today (Wednesday), they have refused to treat her,” said Saleem Jahan, a resident of Shahjahanpur in Uttar Pradesh.

His wife Renuka said: “The doctors say that the blood bank is closed today so it is not possible.”

The resident doctors went on strike Tuesday after some women doctors and nurses were allegedly manhandled by angry relatives of a patient who died of suspected dengue.

This was the second flash strike by doctors at the hospital in less than a month demanding better security arrangements.

The Resident Doctors Association had, however, set up a temporary OPD in the open outside the reception/enquiry and the Central Admission Services office.

While a couple of doctors set up tables for patients, many of their colleagues stood in the background with posters and placards that read, “We are not against the patients, we are against the authorities” and “Patients are our priority but we need our security”.

The resident doctors called off their strike Wednesday afternoon after hospital authorities assured them of better security arrangements.

They said a one patient-one attendant policy and increasing the number of security staff are some of the demands that have been met by the hospital authorities.