Maharashtra warns of using stringent law to break medicos strike

Mumbai: The Maharashtra government threatened to invoke the provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) against striking medicos if they failed to resume duties by Sunday.

Simultaneously Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan issued an appeal to the 12,000 striking doctors, affiliated to the Maharashtra Associaton of Gazetted Medical Officers (MAGMO), to return to work in the interests of the patients.

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The doctors, including specialists, gynaecologists, surgeons, orthopaedics etc, have been agitating since July 1 for various demand and held several rounds of meetings with the state government to resolve their long-pending issues.

The doctors organisation has demanded implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations for all state medical officers in the public health department with effect from Jan 1, 2006, which would nearly double their salaries, and a pay hike.

Besides, they want an increase in the retirement age from 58 to 62 years, regularisation of promotion procedure, optional non-practising allowance for medical officers pursuing post-graduate and fixed working hours.

Principal Secretary (Health) Sujata Saunik warned Saturday evening that those who fail to report to work by Sunday morning could face action under the MESMA.

So far, barely three percent of the striking doctors have resumed duties even as chaos reigned in the medical infrastructure across the state, particularly hitting the urban poor and villagers in remote parts hard.

As many as 37 district hospitals, 80 sub-district hospitals and 363 rural hospitals have virtually downed shutters to patients in view of the strike since the past five days.

As estimated half a million patients across the state have been deprived of OPD treatment and another 100,000 patients neglected for regular ongoing treatment.

Around 6,000 surgeries have been postponed or cancelled and hundreds of medical autopsies shelved since the past few days, which in turn could affect other sectors.

A critical area hit badly is pregnant women who are virtually rushing from one place to another for deliveries, and delivery of premature babies with no medical support.