New Delhi: Doctors have countered a government statement that they work for a maximum of 40 hours a week, claiming that their work hours often add up to as much as 100 hours a week. Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey recently informed the Lok Sabha that the working hours for doctors and other medical practitioners employed at three Centre-run hospitals — Ram Manohar Lohia, Safdarjung and Lady Hardinge Medical College — and the associated hospitals in Delhi normally did not exceed 40 hours a week.
Responding to a question, the minister, however, added that the duty timing and working hours of doctors and medical professionals were governed by the exigencies of their work and depended on whether they were on emergency duty.
Choubey’s claim has drawn the ire of doctors, especially the resident doctors, who claimed that they put in more than double the hours, contrary to what Parliament has been informed.
The minister, in his reply, also stated that “there has been no reported case of negligence of duty or deterioration of quality of healthcare services on account of the extended working hours in these central government hospitals”.
“As regards the standards of treatment, adequate residents/doctors are available in these Central government hospitals to provide optimum patient care. Further, whenever there is an increase in the workload, necessitating an increase in the number of doctors, new posts are created to ensure that the required manpower is available to deliver the desired level of clinical care and to ensure that there is no medical negligence,” Choubey told the Lok Sabha on December 21.
A senior resident doctor at the AIIMS said the work hours for doctors at the Centre-run hospitals often added up to 100-120 hours a week due to a heavy rush of patients and a shortage of doctors.
“Also, the duty timings differ, based on the department in which one is working, as the doctors in Emergency, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Medicine and Surgery departments have long work timings compared to the other departments,” he said.
Another senior resident doctor at the hospital said lack of sleep and a lot of work led to stress among doctors, making them prone to depression.
“Our job is like a policeman and there are no fixed hours. We are always ready to do extra work during an emergency. But this has become a norm now and even patients face problems because of this.
“For example, in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department, if the duty of a resident doctor starts at 9 pm, he leaves only at 6 pm the next evening,” he said.
According to another resident doctor at the Safdarjung hospital, this kind of a work environment also leads to instances of medical negligence.
“There is no proper infrastructure. There is a paucity of doctors and staff at the hospitals, due to which the resident doctors are overburdened.
“We try to take care of the health of the patients, but nobody is concerned about our mental and physical well-being. The government should look into the issue and regulate the working hours so as to ensure that the doctors provide quality care to the patients,” he said.