Interns and honorary doctors at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital continued to make patients suffer for a second straight day yesterday, as they went on with their strike over assaults on doctors by some patients' relatives.
All outdoor patients were denied treatment as the agitating physicians prevented staff from selling tickets from 11:00am.
This correspondent saw a 20-year-old youth being denied admission around 3:00pm at the emergency department, though it was out of the purview of the strike.
“My brother's legs got fractured in an accident. He took treatment two weeks ago, but today he is bleeding badly. The hospital staff at the emergency said there were no doctors,” said the youth's brother Mohammad Hares, who came from Tangail.
“Please help get my brother admitted," he said before getting on a CNG-run three-wheeler to go somewhere else.
Many indoor patients left the government hospital ahead of schedule since the 48-hour strike began on Sunday noon.
The interns and honorary physicians, however, withdrew the strike at 8:00pm yesterday and joined work.
“We made the decision as there was progress in the investigation of the case for the attack on our colleagues,” said Mostafa Rezowan Siddiky, an honorary doctor.
The decision came after State Minister for Health Zahid Malek met the demonstrating doctors at 6:30pm at the DMCH and requested them to call off the strike.
He also assured them that the attackers would be arrested.
Earlier in the day, Mostafa had announced that the strike would continue till 10:00am on Wednesday.
“We want security at the workplace and demand the arrest of those who attacked our fellow doctors -- Rajib Bhowmik and Mominul Islam,” he said, as several hundred doctors held a human chain before the Central Shaheed Minar from 11:30am to 12:20pm.
Rashid-E-Mahbub, chairman of the National Committee of Health Rights Movement, said strikes by doctors were in no way acceptable.
“But at the same time the government has to take prompt action if anything unlawful happens,” the physician told The Daily Star last night.
According to him, the health sector needs to be disciplined through urgent attention to it.
National Human Rights Commission Chairman Dr Mizanur Rahman described the strike as a criminal offence.
“If the state does not take effective steps to stop this practice, it will be considered as a violation of people's human rights," he told a programme in the capital yesterday.
Unidentified people attacked five honorary doctors on Saturday night at Chankharpool in the capital, badly injuring one of them -- Mominul Islam. Several other doctors escaped the attack unhurt.
Earlier on May 6, intern Rajib Bhowmik was wounded in a scuffle between some interns and attendants of a patient over using a hospital elevator, meant only for doctors.
One of the attendants was a Dhaka University student.
Some DU students then vandalised the emergency section of the hospital that day.
The DMCH authorities filed a case against 10-12 people, including three DU students -- Meraj, Ashik and Jewel -- of its Shahidullah Hall.
HEAL OR KILL?
Smriti, 25, is a pregnant mother. The Munshiganj woman got admitted to the DMCH on May 3 with pregnancy-related complications, and was scheduled to have her baby there in four weeks.
“But doctors today [yesterday] suggested that I go home, and come back later if necessary. It is because of the strike,” she told this correspondent.
Patients at a neurosurgery ward alleged specialist doctors were not visiting them for the last two days.
“It was basically the nurses who are taking care of us. Can nurses treat patients having serious problems?” a patient asked.
Abdus Salam, whose sister was denied treatment at the outdoor, said, “Doctors are playing with people's lives. The government must take tough action to stop it."
The NHRC chairman said interns and doctors might have some valid grievances, but they should never call a strike as it can cause irreparable damage.
Following strikes by doctors in India, its Supreme Court directed the doctors to refrain from calling strikes under any circumstances, he added.
SHORTAGE OF DOCTORS
The DMCH has around 300 doctors and about 1,000 interns and honorary physicians.
All the interns and honorary doctors were on strike for the past two days, meaning all the patients were left to be looked after by the 300 doctors.
Honorary doctors are not DMCH staff, but are practising physicians. They provide free service at the DMCH as part of their higher education.
Contacted, DMCH Assistant Director Khaza Abdul Gafur said though there was a shortage of doctors, the authorities took special care so that patients were not denied services at the emergency.
From Saturday midnight to Sunday noon, 68 people were admitted to the emergency and 245 people were given primary treatment, he added.
According to DMCH sources, the figures are 120-150 and 300-400 respectively on a normal day.
Dr Gafur admitted that the demonstrating doctors prevented hospital staff from selling tickets for outdoor patients and that many patients had to go back without treatment.
Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) yesterday announced that doctors would observe work abstention for an hour at all public and private hospitals and clinics across the country, form human chains and wear black badges tomorrow.
Its president, Prof Mahmud Hasan, said the association would form a human chain at Shahbagh intersection tomorrow, demanding workplace safety for doctors.
Also, specialist doctors will not attend patients at their private chambers for two hours from 5:00pm on Thursday in protest against the attack on doctors, he added.