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) —  

The head of Rajasthan’s health ministry denied reports that more than 40 patients have died in recent days amid an ongoing strike by doctors at public hospitals in the Indian state.

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 on their demands.

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 were to 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 sister network CNN-IBN reported Sunday.

But the strike has brought about real consequences, some say.

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

He said the government needed 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 the health of those who are sick.

But doctors in other Indian states sent letters of support for their 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.