Doctors across Telangana protest medical staff’s suspension over rat-bite incident, threaten indefinite strike if order not revoked

The protest was against suspension two doctors and a staff nurse after a patient was bitten by rats in the ICU at a government hospital.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Feb 12, 2024 | 6:25 PMUpdated Feb 13, 2024 | 12:09 AM

Doctors across Telangana protest medical staff’s suspension over rat-bite incident, threaten indefinite strike if order not revoked

Several doctors from Telangana staged protests at hospitals and medical colleges in several districts on Monday, 12 February, against the suspension of two duty doctors and a nursing staff over a rat bite incident.

The protest was against the decision of the state’s Director of Medical Education (DME) Dr B Triveni to suspend two on-duty doctors and a staff nurse after a patient was bitten by rats in the ICU at a Government General Hospital (GGH) Kamareddy.

The protest is led by the Telangana Teaching Government Doctors Association (TTGDA), which claims that the responsibility for the incident lies with the sanitation staff and not the doctors.

Donning black badges and raising slogans demanding justice, doctors from at least 26 medical colleges and 40 hospitals took part in the protests.

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Suspended doctors claim innocence

One of the suspended doctors, Dr S Vasanth Kumar, said he was not even present in the hospital when the incident is said to have taken place.

“From 9 February till yesterday (11 February), I was posted as an examiner on duty in the Gandhi Medical College in Secunderabad. And I received the order last night. I have no idea why I was suspended even when I was not even in-charge of the ICU,” Kumar told South First.

Dr Kavya, the other suspended doctor and assistant professor questioned how the morning-duty doctors were responsible for an incident that occurred late in the night.

“How am I responsible for the incident when my duty timing is 9 am to 4 pm?,” the duty physician, who denied being the ICU in-charge as mentioned in the government release,” she asked while speaking to South First.

Meanwhile, staff nurse G Majula was also suspended.

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TTGDA demands revocation of suspension

Telangana Teaching Government Doctors Association (TTGDA) State General Secretary Dr Jalagam Thirupathi Rao condemned the DME’s decision and demanded the immediate revocation of suspensions.

Protesting doctors. (Supplied)

Protesting doctors. (Supplied)

“It is an administration issue, rats come due to lack of sanitation, how are the teaching doctors responsible? This is the sanitation staff’s concern, who are employed by the sanitation agency. It is monitored by the superintendent or the Resident Medical Officer (RMO). Our teaching doctors are in no way connected with sanitation. They are only concerned with patient care and the teaching of the MBBS and MD students. They have been unnecessarily suspended and that is why we are protesting,” Rao told South First.

He added that the doctors’ fraternity in Telangana is determined to intensify the protests if the suspensions of two doctors are not revoked by Monday evening.

“If they (the DME) don’t revoke the suspension orders by evening, we will start the “Chalo DME” programme tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. All the doctors will come to the DME office and if the suspension is still not revoked, we will go on an indefinite strike,” Rao said.

He added that the Kamareddy Government General Hospital was already facing a shortage of doctors and the two doctors were suspended over an “unrelated issue”.

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Demands structural reforms

Additionally, the TTGDA have also demanded structural reforms such as — restriction of patient attendants inside hospitals, effective sanitation and security, filling of all vacancies, financial backup for hospitals, strong redressal mechanisms, clear job charts for doctors and staff and proper infrastructure.

Reports suggested that the district coordinator of the Hospital Services (DCHS), S Vijayalaxmi have surrendered her duties to the government following a directive by the district collector, who conducted a probe into the incident. He submitted the preliminary report to the Health Secretary on Sunday.

A government press release stated that both the doctors — Dr Kavya (ICU in-charge) and Dr Vasanth Kumar (in-charge of General Medicine) — and a nurse on ICU duty (Majula) were found to be “grossly negligent” as they are mandated to stay vigil and make rounds to monitor the health of the patients admitted under their care, especially in the ICU.

It added that Dr J Ajay Kumar, commissioner of the Vaidya Vidhana Parishad (VVP), the body responsible for middle-level hospitals across the state, visited and inspected the hospital on Sunday after being instructed by Health Minister Damodar Rajanarasimha.

Ajay Kumar, while speaking to the reporters noted that the dialysis unit, situated next to the ICU was under renovation renovation and improper disposal of food waste by patient attendants was a contributing factor to the presence of rats in the hospital.

He claimed that sanitation staff had put in measures like placing rat pads to mitigate the rat menace within the hospital.

South First tried to reach out to DME Dr Triveni multiple times but did not receive a response. Reports suggest that an inquiry by a team of health department officials is scheduled for Monday following which the suspended doctors plan to present their side of the story to the DME.

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IMA Telangana extends support

Extending support to the doctor’s protest, the Indian Medical Association’s (IMA) Telangana wing called the action taken on doctors “irresponsible and unprofessional.”

Noting that state-wide protests would be called for if the suspensions were not revoked, the IMA- Telangana noted that all medical officers must treat the patient till discharge. However, they have no role in searching for rats in the wards to prevent bites.

“The ICU is meant to extend treatment to serious patients, to save precious lives. But, not to keep vigil on rats. The action against the medical officer is highly irresponsible and unprofessional. Sanitary and other staff must keep wards neat and clean. IMA TS protests strongly against suspension of doctor for rat bite in ICU. If the suspension is not revoked state-wide protests will be organized supporting fully Govt Doctors Association,” the IMA-Telangana said in a release.

IMA Telangana President Dr Kali Prasad Rao questioned the DME on the reason why the district collector (Jitesh V Patil) and his team found that doctors are directly or indirectly responsible for the rat bite in the ICU.

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Rat bite incident

The incident came to the fore after the family members of the patient, SK Mujeebuddin, discovered rat bites on the fingers and toes on the right side of his body.

Mujeebuddin, who is a resident of Kamareddy, was admitted to the ICU at GGH Kamareddy for hypertension-related issues on 31 January.

He had undergone surgeries on the head and throat at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) Hyderabad on 21 January.

“He was in a coma and was on the ventilator. Throughout his admission at the GGH he was totally unconscious,” one of the doctors said.