In the last week of July 2014, over 3000 house-surgeons and Post graduate medical students under the banner of Interns and Postgraduate Association of Tamilnadu went on strike. In Chennai, Tiruchi, Thanjavur, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tirunelveli, Theni, Kanyakumari and other districts of the state, these medical students boycotted work in the government hospitals. Students were demanding increased stipends, and better working and living conditions.
It is a well known fact that the government hospitals are primarily run by the interns. They work throughout the year without any weekly off days or Holidays. Shockingly they get only 7 days in a year as holidays. Most of them work in 24 hour work shifts throughout the year. Besides they also remain on call all 24 hours and 7 days a week.
One of the studies conducted recently on the working conditions of interns in Tamil Nadu has revealed that they work for over 108 hours per week or about 16 hours a day! How can anyone focus and provide right and motivated services if the person is forced to work for 24 hours shifts on regular basis? How will this impact the health of the very doctors who are supposed to look after the health of others?
Students are demanding accommodation fit for human beings to come back to work the next day. They want the hospitals to provide them accommodation, which is extremely just demand, considering they are on night and day call. At present very few students are provided with accommodation, that too in most dilapidated buildings with sub-standard conditions. Rest of the student interns are left to fend for themselves.
By forcing these terrible working and living conditions, government is clearly showing that it has least concern with the welfare of the patients who come to government hospitals for treatment. It also shows that government is least bothered about providing an environment of proper learning for the future doctors of this country.
Medical student interns in government hospitals in Tamilnadu are paid at Rs 8,200 a month. This is around the minimum wages for workers in our country. This does not account for either their qualifications, or that they are forced to work 8 hours overtime with no remuneration. Post graduate medical students are paid Rs. 17,400 a month.
Students are demanding that their monthly stipends are revised to Rs. 20,000 for interns and Rs. 45,000 a month for postgraduates with an annual hike
All Students of Medicine have to do a one year period of internship in a hospital in order to graduate. Similarly, students doing a Post Gradual Degree in Medicine which is of three years duration work in a hospital as part of their degree course. These two sets of people are one of the major workforce in all government hospitals. The majority of students working for a super specialty degree in post graduate Medicine are in government colleges and the attached hospitals. The students studying for MBBS in government colleges do their internship in a government hospital. This is what is prescribed by the Medical Council of India.
Students and Resident Doctors in different states have had to wage repeated struggles to ensure justice.
Their struggles are always branded as "anti patient" by a government and a ruling class which does not care one bit for the health of the people of our country.
The conditions in government hospitals all across India confirm this. On one hand, the largest number of people use these facilities. The most self less, qualified, doctors, nurses of our country work in these hospitals, including medical students working as interns. They are extremely overworked, but dedicated. However, they are not even given human working and living conditions.
Neither the Central government, nor the Medical Council of India prescribe the stipends or working conditions of interns or post graduate students.
There are wide variations in the stipends across the states of the country. These also correspond to the struggles waged by the student doctors and their level of organization in different states.
The stipend for interns ranges from Rs 5,000 in MP, Rs 6,000 in Maharashtra, Rs 13,000 in Delhi. To Rs 14,000 in Bengal.The stipends for Post Graduate students ranges from Rs 15,000 in Himachal Pradesh, 32,000 in Maharashtra, to 62,000 in Delhi.
of 12 per cent. Interns and Post graduate students have placed these just demands to the government of Tamil Nadu and have been carrying on various agitations and strikes in support of their demands. But the government of Tamil Nadu has not bothered to accept these just demands. Hence students have launched vigorous strike in the last week of July. They received good support from patients as well as general public.
Their strike has paralyzed the functioning of all government hospitals all over Tamil Nadu. Forced by the situation, officials of the Directorate of Medical Education and the Health Department met the students’ representatives and held discussions. Authorities made promises to address their demands and have borrowed time.
Students are very determined in their demands. If their just demands are not accepted, they plan to re-launch their agitation and intensify their struggle.
The Workers Unity Movement of Tamilnadu has been supporting the just demands of these students. In a statement, it has pointed out that the government has been blatantly violating the basic rights of students, patients & people and human rights. The prevailing work conditions of interns and post graduate doctors are in total violation of the workers rights and labour laws. It called upon the Tamilnadu government to fulfil the demands of the students without any delay and provide them humane conditions of work and stipend.