Mumbai: The Maharashtra government has threatened to invoke provisions of the stringent Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) against striking doctors if they failed to resume work by today.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has also issued an appeal to the 12,000 striking doctors affiliated to the Maharashtra Association of Gazetted Medical Officers, to return to work in the interest of patients.
The doctors, including specialists, gynaecologists, surgeons and orthopaedics, have been agitating since July 1 in support of various demands and have held several meetings with state government functionaries to resolve their long-standing 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 January 1, 2006, which would nearly double their salaries, and a pay hike.
Besides, they want the retirement age to be raised from 58 to 62 years, regularisation of promotion procedures, optional non-practising allowance for medical officers pursuing post-graduate studies, and fixed working hours.
Principal Secretary (Health) Sujata Saunik warned last evening that those who failed to report to work by this morning could face action under MESMA.
So far, barely three percent of the striking doctors have resumed duties even as chaos reigned in medical facilities across the state, hitting the urban poor and villagers in remote parts particularly hard.
As many as 37 district hospitals, 80 sub-district hospitals and 363 rural hospitals have virtually downed shutters to patients the past five days because of the strike.
As estimated half a million patients across the state have been deprived of OPD services and another 100,000 patients neglected during regular ongoing treatment.