New Delhi: The Delhi government on Tuesday said it would explore all options to bring the striking government hospital resident doctors to work, and added that the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) could be invoked if they do not resume their duties by evening.

“We have not yet imposed ESMA, but will do so if they do not return to work by today evening. We will do every possible thing to bring the doctors to work. We cannot let the patients wait and suffer,” Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain told IANS.

He said there was no point in continuing the strike now as the government has already agreed to meet all their demands.

“We will take tough action against those doctors who are on a strike even after our assurance,” Jain said.

The Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi on Tuesday earlier asked the resident doctors of the city’s government hospitals to resume work or face action. The doctors, however, refused to call off their strike on mere assurances.

“The government has warned that if the doctors do not return to work on Tuesday… strict action will be taken against them. The strike is not justified when we have agreed to all their demands,” said a senior official of the Delhi government.

The doctors, under the banner of the Federation Of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA), however, refused to resume work till their demands are implemented. FORDA is an association of doctors of 25 Delhi-based government hospitals.

“Let the government implement the ESMA. If they implement it, we will ensure that the agitation becomes big. If they threaten to suspend the residents doctors, then let them suspend all the 20,000 doctors,” Pradeep Kumar, a senior resident doctor and FORDA member, told IANS.

Explaining the reason behind the doctors not calling off the strike, Kumar said: “FORDA has members from Delhi government hospitals, two hospitals from under the union health ministry and also hospitals under the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi). So, this problem can’t be solved by the Delhi government alone but also needs the attention of the union health ministry and MCD.”

“Union health ministry and Delhi government assured us of implementing all the demands earlier also, but didn’t do anything,” he said, adding that there would be no end to the strike even if the government threatens the doctors of action.

“Even earlier, similar assurances regarding consideration of our demands were given to us but nothing was implemented,” Kumar added.

Over 20,000 resident doctors from 25 government hospitals in Delhi went on an indefinite strike on Monday, demanding adequate stocks of life-saving drugs, security at work place, fixed duty hours and timely payment of their salaries.

The doctors went on strike in February too, after which Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain assured them of better working conditions.

The strike since Monday has affected outpatient department (OPD) and private ward services but emergency services have not been interrupted.

The Delhi government on Monday accepted all the 19 demands of the striking doctors during a two-hour long meeting at the Delhi Secretariat, which was attended by around 25 resident doctors.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also tweeted on the issue: “Most demands of striking doctors genuine. I have directed the health department to implement them. The department should have resolved it earlier.”

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