Karnataka resident doctors go on strike over Covid allowance payment

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Bengaluru: The Karnataka Association of Resident Doctors (KARD) on Monday went on an indefinite strike demanding payment of Covid-19 risk allowance. As part of the strike, the resident doctors across the state have decided to withdraw from all the elective services, including outpatient department (OPD) and elective operation theatre, in all medical colleges affiliated with the KARD. They, however, added that emergency services will not be part of the strike.

“We have worked hard to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, even by compromising all our academics and against the risk of being infected under adverse conditions. As a result, postgraduates have lost half of their course duration without learning the bare minimum of clinical and other skills,” said KARD’s president In-charge Dr Tejas J.

KARD is an association of house surgeons, postgraduates, and super speciality residents of government medical and dental colleges in Karnataka.

In May, the Karnataka government announced a Covid allowance of 10,000 per month from April 2021 for all resident doctors. The association said that the funds have not been released by the government even after six months, terming it a “blatant disregard” towards the doctors serving on the frontlines.

Highlighting an almost 400% hike in academic fees, the association stated that the matter was made even worse by forcing them to pay up the entire sum upfront without any concession during “these troubling times”. It added that innumerable symbolic protests, letters to concerned authorities and a pan-state protest bore no fruitful result. “It is unfortunate to note that the assurance given by the minister of medical education has not been fulfilled. The intent to address the issue is not visible as resident doctors were excluded from the package of Covid-risk allowance announced recently by the Government of Karnataka,” read a statement from the association.

“We are left with no option but to display our dissent in this regard with a Pan-Karnataka indefinite strike from November 29, 2021, comprising of withdrawal of all the elective services including OPDs and elective OTs (Excluding emergency services) in all the medical colleges affiliated with KARD,” it added.

Meanwhile, housekeeping staff, ward attendees, lift operators, data entry operators and security personnel employed in Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI), staged a protest on Monday, demanding timely payment of wages.

The workers claimed that they have not been paid the October salary. Maitreyi from Karnataka General Labour Union, affiliated with the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), said workers are unable to pay their house rent and do not have money to purchase food for their families.

“The workers have not been paid the salary for October 2021. As per labour laws, the workers are to be paid their monthly salary on the 7th of every month. However, as BMRCI has failed to ensure payment of salary for October, the workers are struggling to make ends meet. Without the monthly salary, they are unable to pay school fees of their children or attend to medical emergencies,” she said.

Ramesh Krishna K, Medical Superintendent of Victoria hospital, however, claimed that the payment of salaries was delayed as the outsourced agency had not paid the workers. “I have informed the dean and director about this, and we are in the process of resolving the issue,” he said.

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