Patna HC asks health workers to call off strike, resume duty

The Patna high court Monday directed health workers, paramedics and doctors to call off their strike immediately and resume their duties.

Around 20,000 paramedical employees under the National Health Mission (NHM) in the state had struck work since Sunday while junior doctors, including those at the AIIMS-Patna and state-run medical colleges, had threatened to boycott work indefinitely from August 27 over their respective demands.

Restraining the paramedical workers and doctors from going on a strike, a division bench of the Patna high court said the violation of the order would be tantamount to contempt of court. It listed the case for further hearing on August 26.

The division bench of chief justice Sanjay Karol and justice S Kumar also issued notice to the Bihar State Contractual Health Employees Federation (BSCHEF) and the Junior Doctors Association (JDA), Bihar.

The bench, which drew upon orders by the Supreme Court, said the medical officers and the paramedical staff employed in government hospitals were duty bound to extend medical assistance for preserving human life. Failure on their part to provide timely medical treatment in the need of hour resulted in violation of right to life.

“During the time of current situation and circumstances prevalent as a result of pandemic Covid-19, none of the functionaries empowered and authorised under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, can refrain from discharging their duties and functions, more so by resorting to the mechanism of strike which perhaps may be illegal. The doctors and the para medical staff(s) are constitutionally duty bound, even so on humanitarian grounds, to protect and preserve human life,” the bench said.

“Perhaps, they may have some genuine grievance, but then for redressal thereof, proper mechanism has to be resorted to, but state cannot be put to ransom by resorting to an illegal method of protest, i.e. going on indefinite strike,” the bench added.

Responding to the court order, secretary of the Bihar State Contractual Health Employees Federation, Lallan Kumar Singh, said, “We will share our viewpoint in court.”

“The government has not revised our salary since 2011. Besides, we do not even have life insurance cover. We have also been kept out of the state government incentive to give one-month basic salary to healthcare workers on Covid-19 duty. Demand for Employees Provident Fund is also among our 17-point charter of demands,” he added.

The NHM workers were on strike between July 20 and 23 as well.

President of the Resident Doctors Association of AIIMS-Patna Dr Vinay Kumar said, “The government and authorities concerned must hear and solve all the genuine concerns of doctors and residents of the state. All the health professionals are working tirelessly day and night in times of Covid-19. We never want to withdraw our services as we are responsible for the lives of patients. But where do we go if no one will hear our genuine concerns?”

The junior doctors are demanding a hike in stipend and relaxation in clauses of the government bond for post-graduate medicos, among others.

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