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At least 40 patients die amid India doctors' strike

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:31 PM EST, Sun December 25, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An estimated 10,000 doctors are on strike
  • They are demanding better pay and promotion opportunities
  • 40 doctors are suspended, 390 others arrested

(CNN) -- More than 40 patients have died in the last five days amid an ongoing strike by doctors at public hospitals in India's Rajasthan state, CNN sister network CNN-IBN reported Sunday.

The government has suspended 40 doctors, and 390 others have been arrested for failing to perform their duties, CNN-IBN reported.

Some 10,000 doctors remained on strike. The doctors, who work at government-run hospitals that cater to the poor, are demanding higher salaries and better promotion opportunities that are on par with their counterparts in federal medical services.

But so far, the state government has not budged.

Instead, it made interim arrangements by bringing in 373 military doctors Saturday, said Dr. Lokendra Sharma of SMS Medical College in Jaipur. Another 1,000 doctors will be brought in Monday, he said.

The government has also tapped doctors from railway services, brought others out of retirement and has asked some private hospitals to provide care at government rates.

Army doctors have also stepped in to help out, and emergency services were restored in some hospitals, CNN-IBN reported Sunday.

Attempts by CNN to reach state health officials were unsuccessful.

"Patients, they are dying," said Dr. Ganpat Chandra Gupta, an anesthesiologist.

He said the government needs to negotiate with the state's government doctors.

"They are working in poor conditions," he said. "The government is deaf and dumb and blind."

Some questioned whether doctors ought to go on strike, risking death and injury for the sick.

But doctors in other Indian states sent letters of support for the peers in Rajasthan condemning the "insensitive and callous attitude" of the state government.

"The profession of doctors is very noble but when their voice is not heard they are forced to go on the path of agitation," said a letter signed by the heads of thee medical associations in Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

CNN's Moni Basu and Slma Shelbayah contributed to this report.

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