POKHARA, Aug 4: A week after doctors at Manipal Teaching Hospital in Pokhara launched an indefinite strike demanding a 30 percent salary hike, District Administration Office (DAO) of Kaski has warned the doctors to return to work from Sunday, or else force would be used.
In a statement issued on Friday, the DAO warned of using force against the doctors, if required, as per the Local Administration Act-1971. The DAO has already directed the District Police Office (DPO), Kaski to deploy police personnel at the hospital.
Chetnath Bhattarai, the chief district officer, took the decision after the hospital management requested the DAO to provide security to resume the halted services. In the statement, a copy of which has been pasted on the notice board of the hospital, Bhattarai has said that the DAO had to take the decision as patients are suffering from the strike.
The DAO´s decision has enraged All Nepal Progressive Health Workers´ Association, which has halted all services except for the emergency at the hospital since last Sunday. The association has also threatened to retaliate if the DAO used force.
The hospital management will be responsible if any untoward incident occurs due to DAO intervention, said the association. "We will not call off our strike until our demands met," said Dr Dipak Koirala, coordinator of the association. "The hospital management has to take the responsibility if the situation spirals out of control."
On Wednesday, the hospital management had held talks with the agitating association. But the talks failed as the hospital management and the association both stuck to their guns.
During the talks, the association had shown flexibility by expressing commitment to withdraw the strike if the management hiked doctors´ salaries by 20 percent. After the failure of the talks the association has continued protest to pressure for 30 percent raise.
On the other hand, the hospital management has asked the association to call off the strike, saying that it has already increased doctors´ salary in accordance with existing rules. However, the management has not yet divulged details about new salary structure.
The hospital management says it has been incurring a loss of Rs 600,000 every day due to the strike. "We have not been allowed to even repair our precious machines," said Birendra Yadav, the chief of Human Resources Department at the hospital.
The hospital management has accused the agitating doctors of not being sensitive toward the problems of patients while the doctors say the management is busy provoking the agitators rather than trying to resolve the problem. "Early in January this year, the management had agreed to raise our salaries," says Dr Koirala. "But, the agreement is yet to be materialized."
Dr Koirala asked, "Why can´t the management inform us about our new salary structures when it claims that it has raised our salaries?" He also accused the DAO of taking the side of the hospital management.