Telangana junior doctors call for indefinite strike: Timely stipend, end to violence among other demands

They have issued a strike notice to Dr N Vani, Director of Medical Education. There are several demands that they want resolved by the health department from the state.

BySumit Jha

Published Jun 23, 2024 | 6:40 PM Updated Jun 23, 2024 | 6:40 PM

Telangana junior doctors call for indefinite strike: Timely stipend, end to violence among other demands

Telangana Junior Doctors Association (T-JUDA) has called for an indefinite strike starting Monday, 24 June, which will significantly impact health services across the state.

Junior doctors, who serve as frontline medical professionals in teaching hospitals such as Osmania General Hospital, Gandhi Medical College and Hospital, and Kakatiya Medical College, regularly interact with and attend to patients in hospital wards.

They have issued a strike notice to Dr N Vani, Director of Medical Education, stating that this strike is a continuation of the action that was temporarily suspended last month, on 21 May, 2024. Despite proposals put forth in response to their previous strike notice, none of their demands have been fully met.

There are several demands that they want resolved by the health department from the state.

Also Read: With monsoon comes Dengue: As Telangana reports 886 cases, here’s what you can do

Receiving stipends on time

T-JUDA has demanded the creation of a “green channel” for timely disbursement of stipends to Junior Doctors (House Surgeons, Postgraduates, and Senior Residents), advocating for budget relaxation in this regard.

They have pressed for the release of a Government Order (G.O) to prevent future financial strain on Junior Doctors, along with a directive from the finance department ensuring stipends are credited by the 10th of each month for all junior doctors.

“Regarding these demands, there has been communication from the medical education department indicating reluctance due to potential repercussions from other departments seeking similar relaxations,” said T-JUDA president Dr Ch Sai Sri Harsha to South First.

“They have put forward a proposal for temporary budget relaxation for a year, which we find inadequate as it only resolve this years problem,” he said.

He said that their efforts are not solely for the current financial year but for sustainable policies that will support upcoming generations of medical professionals.

“The issue of irregular stipend disbursement has persisted without improvement. Historically, we have never received stipends promptly within the same month. For instance, if we were supposed to receive our May stipend, we wouldn’t expect it until June or later. This pattern has continued up to this month,” said Dr Harsha.

Also Read: Health Ministry postpones NEET-PG examination hours before test

Challenges in timely disbursement

He said that until last year, the routine was to wait for three months after issuing a strike notice before receiving the accumulated stipend.

“This year, however, we have been vigilant at every step. Despite the attendance being sent from the principal’s office to the DME office on time, we still need to follow up with each department and ensure that the process proceeds smoothly. Even after these efforts, we often face delays of at least two months,” said Dr Harsha.

Explaining the situation, he said, “When we inquire in the first month, we are told that our attendance has just been received and needs processing, which typically takes until the following month.”

“Subsequently, we are required to make representations at the DME level and correspond with the Health Ministry’s peshi and finance secretary every month until the stipend is eventually processed,” he further said.

“This routine consumes a significant amount of time—approximately 10 days each month —to receive just two months’ worth of stipend,” said Dr Harsha.

“This ongoing issue is why we are advocating for budget relaxation or a green channel mechanism. We believe stipends should be disbursed by the 10th of every month automatically, eliminating the need for us to repeatedly visit government offices,” he said.

“The last time we received stipend payments was immediately after issuing a strike notice, covering the stipends for March and April. As of now, the May stipend is pending, and it may or may not be received in July, depending on the actions taken following our recent strike notice,” said Dr Harsha.

Also Read: Doctors without borders faces backlash over decision to shutdown Access Campaign

Super speciality honorarium

T-JUDA insisted that Super Speciality doctors, upon completing their super-specialty training, should be appointed to contractual assistant professor positions with a salary of ₹1,25,000 from the date of their appointment for mandatory government service.

“Currently, there has been some progress as an order similar to what was requested in 2022 has been drafted. However, the order lacks certain crucial details such as specifying the assistant professor rank, the exact salary structure, and the effective date of implementation,” said Dr Harsha.

He added that in recent discussions, authorities have indicated their willingness to address these concerns, but the proposed order still contains ambiguities that need clarification.

T-JUDA has communicated these discrepancies and anticipates a resolution soon.

Violence against doctors

The persisting issue of violence against doctors in various government hospitals necessitates urgent action to enhance security measures.

T-JUDA emphasised the immediate need for reinforcement of security outposts and strict enforcement of laws against perpetrators. Specifically, they demand the allocation of police personnel and the strengthening of existing security measures across all medical college hospitals.

“There has been a historical proposal from the finance department to the Home Ministry dating back to 2019, seeking to recruit 167 special protection force personnel for security at new government medical college hospitals,” said Dr Harsha.

“Despite representations and communication from various stakeholders, including T-JUDA, there has been a lack of progress in implementing these crucial security measures,” he pointed out.

During previous instances when strike notices were issued, assurances were given that proposals had been forwarded However, there has been no substantive response or action from the authorities responsible for implementing these security measures.

Also Read: IISc team fabricates device to make infrared light visible

Hostel facilities

The delay in commencing construction of new hostels has led to severe accommodation shortages for postgraduates, which contradicts mandates from the National Medical Commission (NMC).

T-JUDA demanded that a budget be immediately allocated for new hostel constructions, and that foundation stones for the buildings be promptly laid.

“In existing medical colleges, despite a continuous increase in postgraduate seats each year, the number of hostel rooms has not been proportionately expanded. As a result, only 20 to 40% of postgraduate students can currently be accommodated within the hostels,” said Dr Harsha.

“This situation directly violates the NMC’s directive mandating mandatory hostel facilities for all postgraduates,” he said.

He said further that regarding accommodation off-campus, especially in areas like Osmania and Gandhi Medical Colleges, rents for single-bedroom accommodations range from 15,000 to 20,000 rupees per month.

“Since postgraduates receive stipends akin to scholarships, there are no additional allowances such as HRA , PA , or TA . Consequently, these expenses come directly from the students’ own finances, often requiring them to borrow money from family or others due to irregular stipend disbursements,” added Dr Harsha.

Also Read: 114 heatwave deaths reported; nearly 41,000 cases of suspected heatstroke

Inadequate Infrastructure 

The lack of essential infrastructure in new government medical colleges is a critical issue, particularly in transportation for field visits and commuting between hostels and colleges, often located apart.

T-JUDA urged for immediate budget allocation and bus procurement to address these challenges. Initial college setups meet minimum NMC requirements, with additional equipment and facilities delayed by budget constraints.

Distance between hostels and hospitals (7-10 km and 4-5 km, respectively) hinder student participation in mandatory activities like field visits. A 2022 proposal for 57 buses aimed to improve transport for clinical postings,but progress has been insufficient.

T-JUDA stressed the need for swift action to enable seamless student engagement in educational and community health responsibilities.

Also Read: How researchers used AI to predict Parkinson’s years in advance

Other demands

New Building for Osmania General Hospital (OGH)

The protracted delay in constructing the new OGH building necessitates urgent action to prevent overcrowding and improve patient care standards. We demand the immediate laying of the foundation stone at the new site and the allocation of a budget for the new hospital building

15% Reservation in NEET UG Prospectus

T-JUDA has asked the authorities to adherence to fair admission practices for both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh students, Andhra students should not be allowed to join 15% seats increased in medical colleges in Telangana after 2 June, 2014.

New roads in Kakatiya Medical College

Multiple representations have been made for the laying of roads in Kakatiya Medical College. It was assured by the Honorable Minister that the roads would be laid post- election code, but there has been no progress.

This is a great matter of concern as there are repeated incidents of accidents happening within the campus due to improper road infrastructure. We demand immediate construction of these roads.

“During the previous strike, we were informed that no Government Order (G.O.) could be issued due to the election code of conduct being in force. Consequently, we were asked to withhold our strike until the election code period had concluded. It has now been almost a month since we issued our previous notice, and despite the passage of time, no significant progress has been made towards meeting our demands,” said Dr Harsha.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)

(South First is now on WhatsApp  and Telegram)