Normal functioning at the five medical college hospitals in Kerala continued to be hit for the fourth day on Friday as post-graduate students have struck work, demanding a stipend hike and fee reduction. The strike called by Kerala Medical Post Graduates' Association turned more serious after the house surgeons also joined it on Thursday. In all, more than 2,000 professionals are on strike. Barring emergency operations and casualty functions, the normal functioning of various departments in the five medical colleges' hospitals has been affected since on Tuesday, with patients having no other option but to go back or seek medical help from private hospitals. “In the past one year, we have been assured many times by the health minister (P.K. Sreemathi) that a raise would be given, but nothing has happened,” said an angry student, requesting anonymity. “We were on Wednesday told that a final decision would be taken after consulting Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, but as he is busy preparing the state budget, and the meeting with him is yet to happen,” the student said. “Medical colleges are for poor patients like us and we get no solace when we come here. It is surprising that the state government is silent,” he added. Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy asked Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan to intervene to end the impasse. “It will take only half an hour for the health, finance and chief minister to end this if they decide to sit down to tackle the issue. Those on strike can do it, but they should also see that the patients are not left high and dry,” Chandy said. Former chief of the Kerala Government Medical College Teachers Association, Varghese Thomas, blamed both the government and the striking doctors for the present impasse. “The government has to intervene and the striking doctors should note that when they (teachers) went on strike they always saw to it that the patients are not affected in any way. Arrangements have to be made to see that patients do not suffer,” Thomas said. Sreemathi will shortly hold talks with the representatives of the striking doctors, officials said.
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