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Medical services crippled in AIIMS; Doctors on strike

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, July 5: Medical services in AIIMS, including emergency and casualty, were paralysed as doctors and medical students went on a strike in protest against institute Director P Venugopal's dismissal.

Patients were either returned or asked to go to alternative hospitals as the functioning of entire institute came to a grinding halt.

AIIMS Faculty Association, the Resident Doctors' Association and medical students are on strike.

The AIIMS Faculty Association, which is on a 24-hour work boycott, will review the situation at its General Body Meeting tomorrow evening. Employees of the institute will also organise a meeting tomorrow and take a decision about work boycott.

''The faculty is with Dr Venugopal.... we demand that he be reinstated and an apology from Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss,'' a senior Faculty Association Member said.

The members of the Faculty Association will hold a candlelight march in AIIMS tonight.

Within minutes of the controversial decision, resident doctors and medical students went on an indefinite strike and demanded that Dr Venugopal be reinstated and the Health Minister's resignation.

''This decision is proof of the autocratic style of functioning of the Health Ministry over the autonomy of AIIMS... We oppose it and are on strike now,'' AIIMS Resident Doctors' Association President Binod Patra told UNI.

He said the strike will continue till Dr Venugopal is reinstated and Health Minister is removed.

Dr Venugopal was dismissed by the institute's Governing Body, headed by Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, for violating the code of conduct of the premier institute.

The striking doctors and students said they will fight against the autocratic move and will not accept any other person in Dr Venugopal's place.

''We will not let any other person function in place of Dr Venugopal... this decision is not acceptable to us,'' he added.

Urging the Prime Minister to intervene, Dr Patra said the striking doctors and students have full faith in Dr Manmohan Singh to resolve the issue.

''We urged him to take over the functioning of the institute and let it function as an autonomous institute,'' he added.

The Health Minister and the AIIMS Director were on a war path for some time. The Health Minister had accused the AIIMS administration of ''not performing its duties'' during the past two years. As the President of the Institute, Dr Ramadoss had made some direct appointments and transfers of senior functionaries, including the Dean, in the institute, bypassing the Director.

Dr Venugopal was criticised for allowing the almost 16-day anti-quota reservation in May to be run from the institute's premises and ''being lenient '' with the agitating doctors and students.

On June 15, the AIIMS Director went public with his grievances against the Health Minister and threatened to resign.

He had had accused Dr Ramadoss of ''systematic diluting and undermining'' the autonomy of AIIMS and the authority of the director. Dr Venugopal had also apprised the Prime Minister about the situation.

The AIIMS Director had alleged that the Health Minister was also ''interfering '' in day-to-day working of AIIMS.

He then proceeded on leave for almost ten days.

Dr Ramadoss had denied the charges and accused the AIIMS administration of not performing its duties well for the past two years.

Despite court orders that no punitive action will be taken against striking doctors, the Health Ministry had stopped salaries of the striking doctors, saying ''no work no pay''.

In protest, the doctors had moved the court against the move.

Today's decision came after a three-hour emergency meeting of the AIIMS Institute and Governing Body, presided over by Dr Ramadoss.

BJP leader V K Malhotra, a member of the Institute and Governing Body who attended the meeting, told reporters that most of the members opposed the move to dismiss Dr Venugopal.

''The issue was not listed in the main agenda but Dr Ramadoss brought a supplementary agenda to dismiss the AIIMS Director,'' he added.

''This is a draconian decision and even during the emergency, this did not happen,'' he said.

According to Mr Malhotra, the order to dismiss Dr Venugopal will come into force immediately but he will be given three months salary.

Although Dr Venugopal was present at the meeting initially, he was asked to leave when the supplementary agenda was tabled by the Health Minister.

''He was not even given a opportunity to explain his stand,'' the BJP leader added.

UNI

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