Doctors of government hospitals in Tamilnadu struck work from 25th October 2019 to 1st November. Their strike was withdrawn only after the government promised to look into their four-point charter of demands. Striking doctors are affiliated with the Federation of Government Doctors' Associations (FOGDA). They were compelled to take this drastic step because the promises made by the state government in August this year remained unfulfilled. In the talks held between FOGDA and the Health Secretary, the government remained noncommittal towards the doctors' demands. During the strike, the doctors attended to emergency services, although in-patient and out-patient services were affected by the strike of the doctors.
The four point charter of demands of the doctors includes:
- Pay parity with the government doctors of central government hospitals.
Doctors have pointed out that because of lower pay scales of TN doctors, many doctors were forced to engage in private practice.
- Implementation of Dynamic Advancement of Career Progression scheme (DACP).
The DACP scheme entitles the doctors to time bound promotions at the end of 4th, 9th and 13th year of their service without linkages to the number of vacancies. This scheme was implemented from 2008 for doctors serving with ministries and departments of the central government. FOGDA wants the scheme to be implemented for the doctors of the state as well.
- Recruitment of enough doctors to maintain doctor to patient ratio.
Even though the number of seats in medical colleges as well as the number of patients seeking treatment in government hospitals has been on the rise for the past 15 years, government has not increased the number of doctors. This has led to increased load on the doctors and support staff. FOGDA has demanded that more doctors should be hired to maintain patient to doctor ratio so that proper treatment and attention given to the patients.
- Quota for higher education for government doctors.
FOGDA has also pointed out that the prospects for pursuing higher education by government doctors are getting dimmer as the number of seats for post-graduate education has been dwindling. The doctors who serve in rural areas are particularly affected if there is no preference given to in-service candidates for post-graduate education and therefore want the state government to have a quota for the in-service candidates.
State government's attitude remained hostile to the doctors. After the failed talks on 26th Oct, the goverment did not encourage any further talks. Health Ministry declared that if doctors continued to stay away from work then it will be considered a break in their service. Transfer orders were also issued against doctors leading the agitation. On 31st October, the Health Minister, while addressing reporters in Salem, said about the striking doctors, "They will be removed and their posts will be made vacant for others to apply if they do not resume work. About 10,017 doctors have already applied for the posts." The Chief Minister threatened the doctors with stringent action if they did not report back to work. A case was also filed in the Madras High court on behalf of some patients, seeking direction to the state government to bring an end to the doctor's strike. However, the doctors stuck to their ground and finally on 1st November, FOGDA withdrew the strike after both the Chief Minister and the Health Minister promised to consider their demands. The government also withdrew the break-in-service order.
While the current strike struggle by doctors has been successful, the struggle is not over. Doctors will have to remain vigilant to ensure that the government does not renege on its assurance to sympathetically consider their demands. MEL wishes the TN doctors success in achieving the fulfillment of their demands.