Monday, November 28, 2022

NIDA strike disrupts healthcare services

Staff Reporter

Ready to sit across the table & discuss issue with govt: NIDA

Healthcare services across the state were disrupted as the indefinite strike by Nagaland In-service Doctors’ Association’s (NIDA) entered the fifth day on Tuesday. It may be noted that except for emergency services, emergency surgeries and ICU services, all other healthcare services continued to remain shut across the state.
NIDA has been demanding enhancement of superannuation from 60 to 62 in the light of the prime minister’s announcement in 2016 and rejected the cabinet offer of enhancement to 62 through “re-employment” on retirement. NIDA has said it will stick to its decision on continuing with its indefinite strike and was ready to sit across the table with the State government to reach a solution that was acceptable to all.
Talking to Nagaland Post after two-hour long marathon meeting held at District Hospital Dimapur on Tuesday, NIDA president Dr Bernard Amer said: “It’s not that we are rigid. We are reasonable. If the government has something good to offer, we are ready to sit across the table and discuss, which will be good for everyone.”
He also admitted that health services had been adversely impacted and that the striking doctors were also concerned about the impact on public if the agitation prolonged. Dr. Amer said the stalemate due to no positive response from the government has also left both patients and doctors affected. He, therefore, appealed to the government to resolve the issue at the earliest so that normal health services could be restored.
Dr. Amer disclosed that the meeting between the chief secretary and NIDA on October 29 ended in a stalemate as no tangible solution could be arrived at. This left NIDA with no option but to continue with its indefinite strike in support of its demand.
NIDA has been demanding that the State government relook at the term “reemployment” envisaged by the July 15, 2022 notification and, in its place, translate it into “enhanced superannuation age of 62 years” for doctors without any condition or criterion.
NIDA had stated that doctors could be reemployed after retirement anywhere, but its demand was not about money but taking into account the shortage of doctors and also the fact that most north eastern states had also raised the superannuation age beyond 60.
The state government had responded to the indefinite strike by invoking the Nagaland Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, 1978 (ESMA). Dr. Amer said NIDA was not in a position to back out but hoped that no harm should come to the doctors. If, however, there was any such instance, then the entire issue will spiral into unwanted consequences, he said.
When asked whether the demand would hamper employment of MBBS graduates, Dr. Amer said this would not be an issue since Nagaland had a share of 60 to 65 MBBS seats in a year. “If we multiply the number of seats with the number of doctors required in the State, it still doesn’t come anywhere near,” he pointed out. According to Dr. Amer the doctor-population ratio according to WHO was 1:1000, whereas the ratio in the State was is 1: 4056 (Projected Population 2020).
He said this revealed that more doctors were needed and it would take many years to bridge the gap.
In view of shortage of doctors, Dr. Amer maintained that the only short-term arrangement was to retain in-services of doctors by increasing their superannuation period as a short-term measure, apart from increasing the medical seats. He claimed that currently there were 113 posts of doc-tors lying vacant.
He also suggested increasing the number of MBBS seats outside the State besides making the two upcoming medical colleges in the state functional at the earliest. Dr. Amer also expressed support of NIDA to the contractual doctors appointed during Covid-19 currently on strike due to non-payment of salary and who are also associated with NIDA.
He expressed gratitude to organisations which for supporting NIDA on its demand.
Dr. Amer also expressed the hope that NMA’s plea on the state governor will be considered in order to resolve the matter. It may be recalled that NMA had declared full support to NIDA in its memorandum addressed to the state governor on July 22,2022. NMA had urged upon the governor to review the emerging tense situation and ensure justice and implementation of the Prime Minister’s announcement in Nagaland where many continued to survive amidst poor healthcare facilities and shortage of doctors and other healthcare professionals.

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